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Toyota Investigating Hovercars

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the would-go-great-on-michigan's-pockmarked-roads dept.

Transportation 186

cartechboy writes: Remember back in the day when we all thought we'd be driving flying cars in the future? Well that clearly didn't happen, though it still might in the future. But somewhere inside Toyota there's a team of engineers who think hover cars might be a thing, and apparently there's a project underway at one of Toyota's "most advanced" research and development areas. We aren't talking Jetson's flying car, more like a car that merely hovers "a little bit away" from the road. Probably a few inches, with the aim to reduce road friction. With no wings or ridiculous speed, this is probably no simple process. No one really knows how long Toyota has been working on the idea, or how far along it is. Basically, don't expect flying Priuses any time soon...

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Scrapheap Challenge (1)

invid (163714) | about 4 months ago | (#47211015)

I was going to build one of those after seeing them made on Scrapheap Challenge (aka Junkyard Wars).

Re:Scrapheap Challenge (2, Informative)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about 4 months ago | (#47211549)

There is a new-ish technology out there for making flying machines [d-dalus.com] , and they can be roughly automobile-sized. Perhaps Toyota should consider teaming up with the inventors....

Re:Scrapheap Challenge (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 4 months ago | (#47211683)

My bet is they're looking at something related to the wing-in-ground effect like the Russians experimented with. So the "car" would only "hover" while in forward motion.

aka (5, Interesting)

GoddersUK (1262110) | about 4 months ago | (#47211037)

small hovercraft.

this is probably no simple process

Surely the underlying technology required is essentially what's already been developed for hovercraft, which already come in car sized variants. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it would be easy to stick a car body on them, develop intuitive controls and stick them on public roads; I'm just not sure the technology is as novel and underdeveloped as the summary makes out.

Re:aka (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 4 months ago | (#47211137)

I'm not sure why a person would want a hovercraft for general use. It's way more efficient to just have car that rolls on wheels. Lifting the entire car off the ground with a cushion of air is terribly inefficient. Not that there aren't any uses at all, but as a general purpose vehicle on public roadways, it seems like a terrible idea.

Re: aka (1)

jonnyj (1011131) | about 4 months ago | (#47211217)

Presumably the hover car would also have wheels. The benefit would come at motorway speed - an incredibly smooth ride with no road noise and, possibly, improved fuel economy. The off road potential of a hover car is also interesting.

Re: aka (5, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | about 4 months ago | (#47211333)

Given 95% of resistance at motorway speeds is air resistance, not rolling resistance I'm not entirely sure how having a massive fan to create the lift and another to propel the car is going to improve fuel efficiency given how inefficient propellers are to start with.

Re: aka (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#47211515)

Yes.

Unless and until technology emerges that makes defying gravity much more efficient, there is no advantage (outside of the WOW factor) for using these vehicles on the highway.

Off-road applications are a different matter.

Re: aka (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47212107)

Off-road applications are a different matter.

Yes. A different matter entirely, as in, hovercars will never be useful in off-road applications. Unless, perhaps, they are antigravity vehicles and they are utterly unconcerned about slopes and grades. You cannot take a hovercraft up a grade of any note. Antique steam trains can ascend a steeper grade.

Re: aka (4, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | about 4 months ago | (#47211953)

That's not true. It varies from vehicle to vehicle and between driving profiles, but it's usually 50-75% of the resistance at highway speed coming from aero drag - not 95%. Rolling drag remains a significant loss factor at all speeds.

That said, this doesn't sound to me like the most logical approach to tackle rolling drag - wheels are more efficient than hover as-is in most general-use cases, and I can easily envision a lot more that could be done. For example, you could use very high pressure (120+ psi) tires with a hard, thin central tread, relying on automatic camber to a thick, sticky side tread during accel, braking, cornering, or when traction control kicks in (the additional vibrational load from cruising on high PSI tires could be canceled with, for example, a cable vibration isolation system or active vibration cancellation). Such a system should be able to approach the rolling coefficients of hard steel wheels (a tenth that of traditional car pneumatic tires - effectively rendering rolling losses irrelevant). Heck, if you're going to that extent, it's not much further to go all the way to completely solid wheels (though you'd want foam-core carbon fiber or similar to keep the weight and in particular unsprung mass down, not solid steel) and not even have to deal with tire inflation or puncture risk. So long as you have a way to automatically shift to a thick, sticky tread as needed based on current traction conditions and have a mechanism to soak up the higher vibrational loads to maintain ride quality, you're fine.

Is that a pretty huge deviation from standard practice? Yeah, by no small amount, it's literally reinventing the wheel. But you know what, it's also a pretty huge deviation to have cars outright hover on the highway. ;)

But yeah, you're right in that rolling losses aren't the *primary* loss mechanism on the highway. A lot more has to be done to tackle aero drag, and that's trickier - not least of which because the optimal shape varies based on speed and things like crosswinds (and the more you optimize your shape, the bigger of an issue this becomes). One of the more clever ideas I've seen - I don't know how it'd play out in the real world, mind you - was Aptera's plan to take a page from Gerald Bull's playbook and fill in the low pressure wake with air ducted in through the cabin. There's also a fair bit of research designed for aircraft (where aero drag is an even bigger issue) that could translate to cars, for example, skin textures or microstructures designed to maintain laminar flow or reduce surface drag. One of the more exotic variants of that which I've seen is a taut film outer-layer over a microscopic layer. The film vibrates in the wind between its ridges, setting up standing waves which separate the laminar flow from the surface, reducing the flow speed in contact with the surface and thus reducing direct surface drag. There've been peer-reviewed papers on it, and one of the researchers founded a company that now makes kits to reskin a variety of small aircraft (not very many thusfar, the skin has to be custom designed for each model). That's of course just one example among many, it's a very active field of research, as even a fraction of a percent reduced aero drag on a commercial airplane results in massive fuel savings.

Honestly, I'll be happy if we can just get people's style preferences to shift away from naturally high-drag forms like those ridiculous oversized front-end things where you can barely see over the hood. I know I'm out of the mainstream, but I love the look of aerodyamics. Real aerodynamics, not counterproductive curvy features that a lot of people think are "aerodynamic" but actually raise your drag. I want my car to look like a wingless plane, a car that cuts through the air like a knife rather than a clobbering oaf shoving it all around as it drives by ("Excuse me air, coming through, excuse me, sorry there!"). I want a rounded front end and a rear end that tapers vertically down with as long of a taper as practical, then has a sharp camback cutoff - leaving behind a long, flattened trunk perfect for holding everything from groceries to plywood and 2 by 4s. I want the underbody so smooth that the optimal ride height is no longer that of hugging the ground, but actually elevated to significant ground clearance. And on and on. I want real *aero*, not whatever style trends are currently in vogue.

But I know that's rare. I'm supposed to want "muscular" oversized front-ends, spoilers that *at best* are functionless, oversized wheels, the works.

Re: aka (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 4 months ago | (#47212177)

"That's not true. It varies from vehicle to vehicle and between driving profiles, but it's usually 50-75% of the resistance at highway speed coming from aero drag - not 95%."

It very much depends on the speed of the vehicle and its coefficient of drag. Air resistance increases by velocity squared whereas rolling resistance is pretty much constant regardless of speed.

Re: aka (1)

Rei (128717) | about 4 months ago | (#47212411)

Sort of.

First off, in general to get up to 95%, you're talking "racing supercars" territory. But honestly, not even that (see below).

Secondly, the aero and rolling drag equations (in particular, rolling) are just approximations, along the lines of "assume a spherical cow". The real-world deviation from the formulas is usually described as changing drag coefficients under different conditions, but in the case of rolling drag, it changes so much at high speeds due to increasing magnitude standing waves on the tires (greater rubber flex) that it's better to add into the modeling a nonlinear component; it's not at all accurate to say that it's "pretty much constant". If you don't at least use a piecewise formula for the rolling coefficient in your vehicle energy consumption calculations, you get results that are way off.

In practice, even at supercar speeds, you'll never get up to that mythical 95% aero drag. Rolling drag is also greatly affected by a number of other properties besides velocity, including road surface, tire pressure, tire temperature (rolling resistance drops as you drive as the internal pressure rises), and road condition (contrary to popular myth, in light rain conditions, the main increase in rolling drag is due to tire cooling, not due to pushing water out of the way).

Oh, and I've neglected to mention thusfar parasitic / operating losses as another vehicle energy loss mechanism, which also play a role (usually small, but sadly growing), which makes it even harder to have aero be such an overwhelming percentage of the picture as was previously claimed. (there's also braking losses, but they're primarily an in-town thing)

Re: aka (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 4 months ago | (#47212421)

The tire idea is interesting, but I would think it would be easier to auto adjust the pressure so that the tire was either riding on the hard rubber strip in the middle (high pressure), or riding on the softer rubber on the rest of the tire (lower pressure). It seems like a better system than adjusting camber angles.

Re: aka (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 months ago | (#47212585)

Honestly, I'll be happy if we can just get people's style preferences to shift away from naturally high-drag forms like those ridiculous oversized front-end things where you can barely see over the hood.

Part of the reason cars still look like this is for crash protection. Even mid-engine cars like Ferraris, as well as Teslas which have the motor in the back and batteries on the bottom, have long hoods, for crash protection. If you stick the passengers at the front of the car, you'll have no crumple zone and therefore no survivability in the event of a frontal crash.

If you want to see a vehicle with REAL aerodynamics, check out SkyTran PRT [skytran.us] . Since these vehicles are designed for maximal efficiency, and don't have to worry much about crashes since they're on rails, the people pods are designed for optimal aerodynamics.

Re: aka (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212003)

Try deflating your tyres by 0.4 bar and see what effect it has on your fuel consumption at 70mph. 95% is optimistic unless you just pumped the tyres and you're driving into a strong headwind.

Re: aka (3, Funny)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | about 4 months ago | (#47211507)

And no grip whatsoever in curves. Weeeeeee~

Re: aka (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211573)

So, basically anything made by an American car company?

Because those have always sucked at cornering.

Re: aka (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 4 months ago | (#47212329)

Most of our driving is straight-line interstate. The market here values straight-line performance and a smooth ride. I think that without exception, cars with exceptional handling are niche players in the US market, regardless of national origin. Sometimes the EU market screws up our fun, too. For instance, the original Neon - while crappy in almost every way - did pretty well on the autocross circuit because it was so short and fat. However, in their effort to make it a "world car" suitable for narrow EU streets, they slimmed it down and it was upgraded to crappy in every way.

Re: aka (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212529)

The absence of road noise would be slim comfort when you're sitting on a giant noisy fan blowing air down to create lift.

Re:aka (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#47211421)

Be useful in places where there aren't really roads. Bet the things work great in deserts. In my experience though, steering is a problem. You can't really steer a hovercraft easily. The rudder does hardly anything.

Re:aka (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47212085)

Be useful in places where there aren't really roads. Bet the things work great in deserts.

Only on the flat. You can't cross dunes in a hovercraft. Nor, in fact, can you take any significant grade, nor can you cross any obstacles which very closely approach the size of the gap between the ground and the hard bottom of the craft. Not the skirts, but the hull itself.

Hovercraft have basically one job, high-speed landing craft.

Re:aka (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#47212435)

Although something that runs along water and would somehow work on highways would be an interesting, albeit small niche market and likely not anything that Toyota would care about. I'd love one. A local cruise operator actually has a commercial hovercraft that they had hoped to used as an inter island ferry, except that it wasn't terribly reliable and was a cast iron bitch to tow back to port.

Re:aka (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#47212507)

There was a hovercraft service running between France and England for a few decades. Rathertoo noisy to be particularly popular but they did manage the journey in considerably less than half the time of the ferry.

Re:aka (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 months ago | (#47211637)

I'm not sure why a person would want a hovercraft for general use.

Really? I can see reasons why it could be horribly impractical, but the reason why people would want it is because it's a hovercraft.

Re:aka (2)

Ozymandias_KoK (48811) | about 4 months ago | (#47212351)

Gotta have somewhere to put all your eels, you know.

Re:aka (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 4 months ago | (#47211755)

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads...

The bright side to a hovercraft is that you don't need to fix the potholes.

Re:aka (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 4 months ago | (#47212087)

I'm not sure why a person would want a hovercraft for general use. It's way more efficient to just have car that rolls on wheels. Lifting the entire car off the ground with a cushion of air is terribly inefficient. Not that there aren't any uses at all, but as a general purpose vehicle on public roadways, it seems like a terrible idea.

Only for the niche that small hovercraft already fill - smoothly covering various reasonably flat terrains (marsh, road, water, sand, scrub-land, etc)

Re:aka (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212151)

Depending on where you live, they're not even legal on the roadways. I know Ontario, Canada, for example, forbids them on any road.

Toyota would have to work hard to convince the government that it will stop on a dime.

Re:aka (4, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | about 4 months ago | (#47211297)

The trouble with those car-sized hovercraft is the turning and braking profile, which is nowhere near good enough for public roads designed for cars. Now a design something like the Aero-X [aerofex.com] hoverbike might be able to improve on that - by hovering a bit higher and tilting the entire craft, you could effectively vector a large proportion of the lift airflow for turning force, as opposed to redirecting a bit of the horizontal thrust only with a fin as with conventional hovercraft. Aerofex don't seem to make any such claims about their design though, they seem to be targeting off-road use only, and I guess turning that way might present problems for other road users/pedestrians getting hit by the airflow.

Re:aka (2)

necro81 (917438) | about 4 months ago | (#47211443)

The problem I see with hovercraft (on the same roads as automobiles) is acceleration. The wheels do a lot more for the car than simply supporting the weight - contact with the road surface is absolutely essential for accelerating forward, braking, turning, and keeping the front of the car pointed in the direction of travel. In a hovercraft, you need some alternate mechanism for that - usually pushing with or against the air (i.e., propellers and fans). How does the performance of those alternate means for acceleration compare to rubber on the road? Without a prototype to examine or independent road tests, one cannot say for sure.

Re:aka (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#47211663)

The problem I see with hovercraft (on the same roads as automobiles) is acceleration.

And braking. And cornering.

Those are really important, and in my (limited) experience with hovercraft, some of their weak points.

That, and going up a hill or dealing with a side slope.

Unless they're using an entirely different technology, I just don't see a hovercraft being a viable replacement for a car.

Re:aka (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211759)

The problem I see with hovercraft (on the same roads as automobiles) is acceleration.

And braking. And cornering.

Those are acceleration as well, just in directions other than forward.

Those are really important, and in my (limited) experience with hovercraft, some of their weak points.

Couldn't agree more...

Re:aka (1)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | about 4 months ago | (#47212055)

Retrorockets.

Re:aka (1)

Rei (128717) | about 4 months ago | (#47211977)

My presumption is that they're still using wheels for acceleration. For example, in a front-wheel drive car, you could hover the back wheels, at least until you need traction from them (for example, turning). With a pulse and glide configuration, you could even hover the drive wheels for a good chunk of the time.

Still, I think there's much better options for reducing rolling drag.

Re:aka (2)

Rei (128717) | about 4 months ago | (#47212575)

Oh, and just an additional comment, from my past experience in the auto industry: this wasn't an "oops, I wasn't supposed to say that!" remark. The Japanese companies are in general very good at controlling information flow; this was clearly planned for him to say that. But the reason he said it was almost certainly not to prepare people for the coming day of flying cars; it's about perception. It's a major brand positive for an auto maker to be perceived as high tech / cutting edge / innovative, and they want to culture that.

Remember Rick Wagoner, the guy whose tenure at GM made a graph of the company's stock look like a double diamond ski slope? Of all of the things that he could have regretted, he's stated that the number one thing he regrets was axing the EV1 (late 90s electric car) program. The EV1 lost tens of thousands of dollars per unit and there weren't many made so there was major overhead on top of it; but by axing the program to save a little money, they willingly gave up the perception of being a tech innovator, right at the time the Japanese companies were introducing hybrids. Even to people who weren't considering buying a Prius or Insight - aka, the vast majority of consumers - the very perception that Toyota and Honda appeared to be high-tech innovators demonstrably influenced consumer buying decisions.

Car makers have slick PR teams who survey and carefully try to manipulate the public perceptions about themselves to influence buyer behavior. Expect that the decision to mention this came straight from one of them.

Maglev... (1)

galgon (675813) | about 4 months ago | (#47211699)

I think you are taking the hovercraft name too literally. All they have said is that the car will hover a few inches above the road. There a few ways to accomplish this none of which are easy which is why we have not seen one in real life yet. One option would be to use a maglev type system. Although that would likely require expensive changes to the roads. Other options are using an air cushion in some way but again that is not an easy solution. All we can really gain from this artificial is that Toyota is attempting to think outside the box when developing cars. But we can say that the vast majority of these ideas will never make it into the hands of the consumer (or at least not anytime soon).

Awesome military applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211043)

e.g.:

hovercar + unintended acceleration => cruise missile

Priuses? (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | about 4 months ago | (#47211063)

The plural of Prius should be Priora if you're going latin; Priuses just sounds dumb.

Re:Priuses? (2)

skovnymfe (1671822) | about 4 months ago | (#47211107)

But this isn't Latin. This.. is.. English!

Re:Priuses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211267)

Dumb or not, English doesn't consistently adopt the grammar of loanwords. You aren't even a real grammar Nazi.

Re:Priuses? (2)

sanosuke001 (640243) | about 4 months ago | (#47211283)

It still sounds ridiculous.

Re:Priuses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212183)

Well, what do you expect from a language where you (unsuccessfully) try to use French pronunciation on a Germanic base?
Trying to make English sound non-ridiculous isn't going to work.

Re: Priuses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211413)

Shouldn't that be Grammar Nazi?

Re:Priuses? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 4 months ago | (#47211437)

At least give him some credit for not saying it should be Prii, as if "-i" were a universal Latin plural for "-us".

Buddy of mine went to the U of Miami where the Marine Biology Dept was always irritated by that. They used to rail against "octopi" for "octopus".

Re:Priuses? (1)

JazzLad (935151) | about 4 months ago | (#47212285)

So they should be Priopedes?

Re:Priuses? (1)

fuzznutz (789413) | about 4 months ago | (#47212323)

So they should be Priopedes?

How about Priaprism?

Re:Priuses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211569)

"Priora" wouldn't even be a consistent adoption of Latin grammar since it's only nominative and accusative.

I get enough flying priuses already. (4, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about 4 months ago | (#47211095)

call me a fogey but we cant handle flying cars and we certainly cant begin to handle hovering ones either.

Here in america you need look no further than your local road to confirm my assertion. just drive to lunch today and count how many people change lanes without a signal, make an illegal left across two lanes of opposing traffic, run red lights, cut eachother off, and tailgate. We're a fucking mess. On the highways every single vehicle routinely travels 15 miles or more above the speed limit, even though we've had reliable cruise control thats far superior to our own clumsy right foot for more than 3 decades. Drivers are glued to their phones or face down in the texting position for the majority of their commute. We're horrible at looking ahead and predicting when traffic will stop, instead choosing to slam on our brakes and let the other guy do his best to stop. Although every drivers manual reads we should slow down if someone wants to merge into our lane, we instinctually speed up or ignore them. Try an experiment: go the speed limit in the center lane of the highway and see how many furious drivers pound their horns and flash their headlights. Better yet, try driving in the left lane on a road that isnt limited access, a speed limit something around 35mph, and see how many people completely lose their minds despite the fact that what youre doing is entirely legal. And speed? The only time speed factors into any collision in america is when its fatal, and even then its only if the wreckage is catastrophic or the occupant a celebrity. We wrecklessly whip across 3 lanes of traffic and insist on maintaining our lead regardless of how congested the roads are. We categorically ignore speed limits in a construction zone despite a quad-damage boost to any citation received. We race along at all hours of day and in all seasons as if a collision would have no consequences to us, because we're all we think of.

The best innovation in automobiles has been to autonomize them, but compared to things like rail even an autonomous car is laughably inefficient and merely perpetuates a host of systemic and unsustainable problems related to automobiles nonetheleast of which is climate change.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47211173)

Actually, hovering cars as the article describes (hovering a few inches above the ground) would probably reduce accidents by a great deal. Almost every day, I see bits of tire - some from the big sixteen-wheelers but plenty from what are likely regular commuter cars as well - strewn along the side of the highway. Many of them are accompanied by cars parked in the breakdown lane, or crashed into the barriers on the side of the road. Not every blown tire at highway speeds necessarily leads to a crash, but plenty of them do. I'm not saying hovering cars would be perfect, as I'm sure there would be incidents where whatever is making them hover fails, but removing tires would definitely lower accidents.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211509)

big sixteen-wheelers

Pretty sure you meant 18 wheeler...although maybe it was intended (i.e started with 18 and lost a couple along the road).

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47211581)

I did mean eighteen-wheeler, was my first post this morning pre-coffee.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211769)

Yes. Totally a lot less accidents to imagine when cars start to have as much grip as the air cushion below them provides, duh.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211847)

. I'm not saying hovering cars would be perfect, as I'm sure there would be incidents where whatever is making them hover fails, but removing tires would definitely lower accidents.

Really? The profound lack of friction provided by the air cushion also provides a profound lack of control. Driving on smooth wet ice with worn summer tires is actually grippy in comparison...

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 4 months ago | (#47211867)

I doubt that, there would be no friction with the ground meaning it would corner and stop poorly, bridges and other areas with wind gusts would be huge problem. Hover crafts have been around for a while they are notoriously difficult to control.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211319)

Consider testosterone replacement therapy. Might make you enjoy driving.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211373)

I would welcome not having to dodge the holes on our nearly, completely unmaintained, American roads though.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (5, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | about 4 months ago | (#47211375)

"Try an experiment: go the speed limit in the center lane of the highway and see how many furious drivers pound their horns and flash their headlights"

Yeah , I wonder why that could be. Perhaps because some arrogant ass is blocking the lane when he's supposed to move over if the nearside lane is clear. If you want to play traffic cop go sign up and do the 2 years training, otherwise get out the fecking way.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211763)

Seriously,

Show me the lines of the traffic code that require slower people to move to the right side.

It's a "convention" at best.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211915)

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211939)

In fact it's a convention that'll get you ticketed for weaving in CA.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212069)

"Weaving" occurs within a single lane, so I really doubt that. Anyway, here's the part of the California traffic code [ca.gov] that mandates keeping right. Consider yourself informed.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211973)

Show me the lines of the traffic code that require slower people to move to the right side.

Here you go [mit.edu]

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

chihowa (366380) | about 4 months ago | (#47212093)

Seriously,

Show me the lines of the traffic code that require slower people to move to the right side.

Ask, and you shall receive. [mit.edu]

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212195)

You really do need to read the rules of the road. But as you wish:

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h08_e.htm#BK223

147. (1) Any vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 147 (1).

If they meant speed limit, you can be assured that's what the law would say. "Normal speed" is whatever the average speed for that road is. If you're in the middle lane and going an average speed, congrats, no honking.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

BarefootClown (267581) | about 4 months ago | (#47212449)

Seriously,

Show me the lines of the traffic code that require slower people to move to the right side.

It's a "convention" at best.

43 O.S. 11-309 [oscn.net] , notably (5):

5. Upon a roadway which is divided into four or more lanes, a vehicle shall not impede the normal flow of traffic by driving in the left lane; provided, however, this paragraph shall not prohibit driving in a lane other than the right-hand lane when traffic conditions or flow, or both, or road configuration, such as the potential of merging traffic, require the use of lanes other than the right-hand lane to maintain safe traffic conditions. [Emphasis added]

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 4 months ago | (#47212213)

"Try an experiment: go the speed limit in the center lane of the highway and see how many furious drivers pound their horns and flash their headlights"

Yeah , I wonder why that could be. Perhaps because some arrogant ass is blocking the lane when he's supposed to move over if the nearside lane is clear. If you want to play traffic cop go sign up and do the 2 years training, otherwise get out the fecking way.

Yet those same furious drivers will inevitably pass on the right into dense, slower moving traffic, ride someones tail until that driver gets nervous and speeds up enough to let them pass that center lane car only to further pass into the the left lane which was open in the first place. The moral of the story is, once you hit the highway, someone is always an idiot to someone else whether you are actually driving like an idiot or following the letter of the law.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 4 months ago | (#47212609)

Again, the speed limit is critical as that is the maximum speed you are supposed to be traveling on american highways, no faster, and as such im considered at cruising speed. on a 3 lane highway, the left lane is for passing, and center lane(s) cruising. When you choose to drive slowly or enter or turn off the road, use the right lane. You. along with countless other drivers are incredible proof that its possible to pass a drivers test administered in the United States with no more than a passing interest in how highways or speed limits actually function.

there is no such thing as "keeping up with the flow of traffic." when it is in excess of the posted legal speed limit

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (4, Informative)

JimFive (1064958) | about 4 months ago | (#47211489)

Better yet, try driving in the left lane on a road that isnt limited access, a speed limit something around 35mph, and see how many people completely lose their minds despite the fact that what youre doing is entirely legal.

No, it isn't legal. Look up Impeding Traffic. You aren't allowed to impede the normal flow of traffic, even if that traffic is violating the law.
--
JimFive

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

Splab (574204) | about 4 months ago | (#47211621)

So you are saying, it's ok to break the law, as long as everyone are doing it?

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 months ago | (#47211901)

I think he's saying the opposite of that.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212083)

If everyone is breaking it, then its not a valid law.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212115)

No he's saying it's ok to get the fuck out of the fast lane if you're holding up traffic behind you, even if you're at the speed limit.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (2)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 4 months ago | (#47212125)

So you are saying, it's ok to break the law, as long as everyone are doing it?

When speed limits are designed to be 10MPH lower than what people are expected to drive, then yes. The law makers assume that people will cheat by that much, and set the limits artificially low.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212443)

Holy fuck, American road laws are hilarious, and dangerous.
I know which country I am never visiting in my lifetime.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#47211575)

call me a fogey but we cant handle flying cars and we certainly cant begin to handle hovering ones either.

You might be a fogey, but you're completely correct. I was just driving up the 101 and watching people lane drift and thinking this very thing — people can't handle the cars we have now, they certainly won't be able to handle a vehicle with reduced friction.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1, Informative)

fuzznutz (789413) | about 4 months ago | (#47211597)

Try an experiment: go the speed limit in the center lane of the highway and see how many furious drivers pound their horns and flash their headlights.

How about you keep your butt over in the right lane if you are not passing anybody like the law says? I see that you are one of those douchebags who thinks it's his personal responsibility to make sure nobody is speeding. You seem all to eager to bitch about how bad others drive but maybe you should look a little closer in the mirror. You're kind is a reason New Jersey decided to up the cost of the fines for such douchebaggery.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.s... [nj.com] Lane hogs who clog the left or center lanes instead of using them to pass another vehicle will see fines increase from between $50 and $200 now, to between $100 and $300. The measure calls for $50 from each violation going toward signs reminding motorists who enter New Jersey about the state’s keep-right law.

Better yet, try driving in the left lane on a road that isnt limited access, a speed limit something around 35mph, and see how many people completely lose their minds despite the fact that what youre doing is entirely legal.

And no doubt the speed limit will actually be 45. I get stuck behind douchebags like you every morning on my commute to work. They will drive 35 MPH in the left lane in a 45 zone all the way. Invariably. Every... single... day... They will continue this UNTIL the speed limit changes to 35 and then they suddenly will speed up to 45 because there are no more traffic lights. Lucky for me that the road has traffic light coordination so I get to stop at most of the traffic lights, unless I pass them early on.

And WTF is up with idiots that slow down 10 - 20 MPH at every green light?

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (2)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 4 months ago | (#47212345)

And WTF is up with idiots that slow down 10 - 20 MPH at every green light?

That's my wife, she has been hit by people running red lights while texting twice. I saw it happen to someone else Monday.

The city could make a boat load of money if they had cameras at the traffic lights catching the people running the red lights.

Solution: Get rid of steering-mounted air-bags... (1)

Black.Shuck (704538) | about 4 months ago | (#47211729)

...and replace them with bayonets poking out of the steering-column and pointed at the drivers face.

The roads would be full of careful drivers, well prepared for the upcoming wave of hover-vehicles.

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212315)

while i can't disagree with a number of your points, i will only say that scrupulously obeying speed limits is NOT a panacea for avoiding accidents... AND, i will further say that lane-squatting at the speed limit while 90% of the rest of us get pissed at you holding up traffic, is INCREASING the chances of accidents happening, NOT 'calming traffic'... further, i personally think that if people would pay just a LITTLE more attention to reasonable following distances would be FAR MORE effective in reducing accidents than merely 'driving the speed limit'...

Re:I get enough flying priuses already. (1)

greenbird (859670) | about 4 months ago | (#47212599)

Now I agree whole heartily with everything you said except:

Although every drivers manual reads we should slow down if someone wants to merge into our lane

This is wrong and it drives me nuts. People don't know how to merge. You're are supposed to drive at a consistent speed if someone is trying to merge into your lane. The merger is supposed to adjust their speed. Their supposed to decide whether to slow down or speed up to merge in front or in back of you. If both start slowing down and speeding up it becomes a confusing guessing game. Now if you mean by slowing down providing enough of an opening for the merger to fit that's another issue. Unless you're driving at a very slow speed if you're following so close that a car can't fit in front of you you're following too close. Tailgating is probably the second most leading cause of serious collisions (whether directly or as a result of reducing wiggle room).

A photo of the prototype (1)

cccc828 (740705) | about 4 months ago | (#47211149)

(...) During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to Toyotas ultimate car, the Hovercar, a flying Prius with enough power to fly almost 100 miles.

Here is an exclusive photograph of the prototype: http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080316031428/starwars/images/5/54/X34-landspeeder.jpg [nocookie.net]

*This is not the Toyota you are looking for*

Re:A photo of the prototype (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 months ago | (#47211161)

How many Bothans died to bring us this information?

Re:A photo of the prototype (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211225)

Just one, his name was Manny Bothans.

Air cushion under tyres (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211211)

The only way this could work is if the car had conventional wheels and tyres that could be instantly put into use at any moment to steer/break etc. To make it hover would require some sort of air cushion being created between the tyres and the road that could be instantly turned on and off.

Zero-traction cars! (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 4 months ago | (#47211307)

Why not call them what they are? With all the time and money that's been poured into improving tire traction, it seems hilarious to talk about eliminating it entirely.

Maybe they could take a baby step in this direction by introducing a car that automatically hydroplanes whenever it's on a wet highway. That ought to reduce friction losses significantly, too, right?

Re:Zero-traction cars! (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#47212205)

Have you driven anything with those eco tires the prius comes with? They have no traction the hover car might be an improvement.

Translation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211315)

Habaakurafuto wa, unagi ippai!

Whut? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 4 months ago | (#47211445)

Remember back in the day when we all thought we'd be driving flying cars in the future? Well that clearly didn't happen, though it still might in the future.

Wow. What a long-winded way of saying nothing of any meaning. There will always be a period during which it "clearly didn't happen" and we just happen to still be in that period.

Sailing a Prius (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211589)

There was a website by some early Prius fans on which I had seen an applet where drag was calculated based upon wind direction and speed of the car. If the wind were at an oblique angle to the direction of the car, the drag was higher than if the car was traveling directly into the wind. The website speculated that if the body of the car could be actively adjusted to compensate for the wind direction versus the direction the car is traveling, the effective drag could be reduced.

Maybe the Toyota wording (maybe garbled through translation) is about something like this. Active aero isn't new, but maybe whole-body aero?

But but... (1)

Agares (1890982) | about 4 months ago | (#47211627)

I want my flying Prius :(...

Control and Safety? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 months ago | (#47211685)

Reducing Road friction, from someone in the North East means the same as driving on Icy Roads.

Now the people who live in areas where we are use to this sort of driving it may be good. But the South they will just be stuck in traffic for weeks because they just don't know how to drive on reduced friction.

Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47211775)

We wouldn't have to worry about poor road conditions (ice, snow, water, potholes, caverns in the road, destroyed roads).,,

As a start (1)

RoccamOccam (953524) | about 4 months ago | (#47211801)

As a start, Toyota should first start with developing a technology to allow the tires to rise above the surface of the pavement just a few millimeters when the road is wet. This would give many of the same performance characteristics that you'd get with a hover car, but it'd be much easier to achieve.

Not really sure why you'd want this (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#47211835)

Car tires contacting the ground gives you two huge advantages: The car's motion is (assuming no skidding) restricted to a single axis determined by the direction the front wheels are pointing. And the car's orientation is physically coupled to the road (i.e. it more or less points in the direction it's traveling).

Once you start hovering, you lose these two and direction and orientation are no longer coupled to any part of the car. The car no longer moves forward in the direction the wheels are pointed. It's now free to move sideways, and can spin to point in a direction other than where it's moving. Skids are one of the most dangerous events which can happen in a car, and a good portion of design and maintenance is devoted to preventing them. I don't see why you'd want to design a car so that a "skid" becomes the norm instead of the exception.

The only way I can see it working is if the method of levitation somehow locks the car's orientation [youtube.com] .

I had a dream of a hoverbike once (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 4 months ago | (#47212037)

In my dream, I had the idea that there was an electromagnetic tape that the bike drove over. The thing worked like a hover bullet train. The tape recycled around the bike like a tank tread. The idea may or may not work because it is very complicated for the maglev trains to work in a static state of the rails. For a bike to cycle tape/film around to produce lift would be yet another feat of engineering. So while it was just a dream, I don't think it is totally theoretically impossible.

Since they used the term "hovercar" (1)

scotts13 (1371443) | about 4 months ago | (#47212099)

That locks us into an impossible scenario - anything related to a hovercraft as we know it is completely unsuitable as a consumer highway vehicle. So, the company MUST be talking about something else entirely.

Inductatrack maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212249)

They may be investigating a car adapted for Inductatrack (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductrack). Of course it requires a special roadway, but it might not be much more expensive than laying a new roadway. If this is so, it is a very long view approach for a profit oriented corporation.

The future is over? (2)

asylumx (881307) | about 4 months ago | (#47212251)

Remember back in the day when we all thought we'd be driving flying cars in the future? Well that clearly didn't happen

That's the beautiful thing about the future, it is still (and always will be) ahead of us.

Investiage, test, sure, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47212457)

Things like this will never come out of the r&d lab until we've made some VERY serious advances in fuels that aren't oil based.

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