The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Cars, Cars, Cars – A Beginner’s Guide (1)

Who, me?My dears, yours truly (drum roll) is currently studying for her driving license. The theoretical exam is right around the corner, coming up next week as a matter of fact (OMG!!!), so fingers crossed and God bless your English teacher! 🙂

As preparation for the exam, the English version of it, since I am currently stationed in Poland :), I am studying the English version of the Driving manual (which would make a story in itself, and possibly another blog post in the future – oh, and, yes, I haven’t finished reading it yet!!!), as well as investigating the topic of cars on my beloved TED. Feel free to join me in my “car universe discovery”  journey. Playlists on Ted have become increasingly popular, so here’s my very own playlist on cars. Well, I’ve always said I would have loved to work as a curator, so here’s my chance. Hope it brings you as much insight as I hope it has brought to me!

Alina’s TED Playlist:

Cars and their Universe,

a Third Degree Encounter

1. The magic of motion… Let’s start with Newton’s fundamental laws of motion (1687):

The Law of Inertia
Force = Mass x Accelleration
The Action/ Reaction Pair

Here’s the brilliant clip of  Newton’s 3 Laws with a Bicycle, by Joshua Manley:

Tip for teachers: you can use this and other lesson videos like this in class in a variety of ways (do check the activities suggested on TED under these three headings: Watch, Think, Dig Deeper, and investigate the “flipping” function provided).

2. Bill Ford: A future beyond traffic gridlock (2011)

Who is Bill Ford?

Bill Ford is a car guy — his great-grandfather was Henry Ford, and he grew up inside the massive Ford Motor Co. So when he worries about cars’ impact on the environment, and about our growing global gridlock problem, it’s worth a listen. His vision for the future of mobility includes “smart roads,” even smarter public transport and going green like never before. [Read more]

His talk makes you think about:

  1. A change of perspective: What if all we do is sell more cars and trucks?
  2. Passions: automobiles (heritage insights + the belief that with mobility comes freedom and progress) & the environment (literary heritage insights + personal beliefs)
  3. The business world dilemma in the past: Environmental friendliness + technology =”Environmental wackos”. Is there still a conflict? 😀
  4. The origins of what we now call “sustainability“. 
  5. Reducing and one day eliminating CO2 emissions
  6. The freedom of mobility now threatened by the population reaching its highest limits of growth (Today there are about 6.8 billion people; the global population is estimated to go up to 9 billion in our lifetime – by 2044. There are about 800 million cars on the roads worldwide. By 2050 that number is going to grow to about between 2 & 4 billion cars. In the years to come 75% of the population will live in cities,  and 50 of those cities will be of 10 million people or more.)
  7. The result: a global gridlock that will stifle economic growth and our ability to deliver food and health care particularly to people that live in city centres. And our quality of life is going to be severely compromised.
  8. The time we spend stuck in traffick jams & the commuting time will change. 
  9. “The mobility model we have today will not work tomorrow.”
  10. If we make no changes today, what is tomorrow going to look like?
  11. Possible solutions: no silver bullets, but a global network of interconnected solutions; not only building smart cars, but also smart roads, smart parking, smart public transportation system and more.
  12. No-compromise sustainable mobility” (“We need an integrated system that uses real-time data to optimise personal mobility on a massive scale without hassle or compromises for travellers.”)
  13. The future: On NY’s 34 street gridlock will soon be replaced with a connected system of vehicle-specific corridors; the system called Octopus in Hong Kong (tying together all the transportation assets into a single payment system).
  14. The idea of “talking cars” that will help create a smart vehicle network. The potential of a connected car network is almost limitless. Just imagine: your car could book you a parking spot before reaching a destination. 
  15. “We need all of you“: people from all walks of life, leading thinkers, not just inventors, we need policy makers, and government officials + an infrastructure that’s designed to support this flexible future.
  16. Bottom line: we need to get going, and we need to get going today
  17. “I believe we’re at our best when we’re confronted with big issues.”

3. Chris Gerdes, The Future Race Car – 150 mph, and no driver (2012)

Who is Chris Gerdes?

It’s 2012. And many of us no doubt imagined that flying cars would be all the rage by now. While that hasn’t happened yet, some major driving innovations are on their way down the pipeline.

In a new TEDTalk, Chris Gerdes of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (awesomely abbreviated as CARS) explains that he and his team are busy at work developing the motor vehicles of the future. One of their starting points? Studying the brainwaves of the best motorists in the world — professional race car drivers. The idea is to combine computer technology with human intuition and skill behind the wheel. [Read more]

His talk makes you think about: 5 fascinating carsFive cars we may be seeing a lot more of in the future. Sure, they don’t fly. But, hey, many allow you to sit back and enjoy the ride without having to do a thing.

  1. Shelley, the autonomous race carShelley, the autonomous race car
    Nascar and Formula One racing are popular for a reason — professional race car drivers are masters at estimating the friction between the tire and the road, and instinctively being able to use the throttle and brakes to steer. Gerdes and his team have created a race car that can do these same things — without a driver. Nicknamed “Shelley,” their race car can drive itself at 150 mph while avoiding every possible accident thanks to an onboard computer. Shelley has taken high-speed spins around Thunderhill Raceway Park and navigated the 153 turns of Pike’s Peak hill climb route. As Gerdes explained to CBS News, Shelley’s algorithms could someday be in your car, helping you avoid collisions.Google's self-driving carGoogle’s self-driving car
    It’s amazing to imagine a car that can make every split-second decision for you, even delivering you home safely when you’re too tired to drive. Google’s DARPA Challenge-winning self-driving car has attracted a lot of attention. Developed by a team led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun (watch hismoving TEDTalk here), these cars use intelligent driving software, proximity sensors and extensive GPS data to figure out how to get from one point to another. What happens if the driver actually wants to do something? They can just tap the wheel or brakes and take back control. In May, the state of Nevada granted Google the first license for a car that drives itself, reports Time. Meaning that — head to Vegas, and you could potentially see the car being tested on the roads.GM's EN-VGM’s Electric Networked-Vehicle
    This two-person vehicle looks something like a cross between a Mini and a Segway. Why would someone create such a thing? According to GM, by the year 2030, urban areas will house 60 percent of the world’s 8 million people — and standard cars might no longer be an option. The balancing EN-V car could help solve problems like traffic congestion and parking scarcity. Bonus: they are electric, and could also boost air quality while helping to lower oil reliance.P1

    P1, the car that can’t spin out
    Developed by students in Gerdes’ lab, this electric, steer-by-wire vehicle allows for each wheel to be tuned independently, maximizing performance while minimizing wear on tires. “We believe P1 to be the world’s first autonomously drifting car,” says Gerdes, explaining that the vehicle helped develop the racing algorithms used for Shelley. “It’s a concept we call ‘envelope control.’ Under envelope control, the driver can do absolutely anything, including drift — but cannot spin the car.”

    Nissan Pivo 2

    Nissan’s PIVO 2 commuter car
    A three-person commuter car, this Nissan concept looks like something straight out of the Pokémon universe with its bubble-like body. The small car uses a robotic interface, reminiscent of a video game, that both interacts with the driver and scans the environment for information. But the best part? This car spins and can drive sideways thanks to “by-wire” technology rather than traditional mechanics.

4. Jennifer Healey: If cars could talk, accidents might be avoidable (2013)

Who is Jeniffer Healey?

Jennifer Healey imagines a future where computers and smartphones are capable of being sensitive to human emotions and where cars are able to talk to each other, and thus keep their drivers away from accidents. A scientist at Intel Corporation Research Labs, she researches devices and systems that would allow for these major innovations. [Read more]

Her talk makes you think about:

  1. Computer vision giving you the bird’s eye view
  2. Position data (GPS) sharing/ cars “talking” (so that we would be surrounded by what she calls “a sea of gossip“, with cars “talking behind your back”)
  3. Adding robots to assist you while driving: stereo cameras, GPS, two-dimensional range finders (common in backup systems),  a discrete short-range communication radio plus many more.
  4. TMI (too much information, or, to quote Jennifer Healey, “too much chatter“), hence the Q: How do we prioritise? A: According to her, that is where the predictive model comes to our rescue.
  5. Q: How can we best alert everyone (if there’s a problem, like a driver driving off-course)? A: The combined ability of the car + driver.
  6. Driver state modeling
  7. Being able to calculate the safest route for everyone – is this a dream about to come true?
  8. A question of privacy: to let or not to let your car gossip about you? That is Jennifer Healey’s question. 🙂

5. Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity … in conversation with Chris Anderson (2013)

Who is Elon Musk?

Entrepreneur Elon Musk is a man with many plans. The founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX sits down with TED curator Chris Anderson to share details about his visionary projects, which include a mass-marketed electric car, a solar energy leasing company and a fully reusable rocket. [Read more]

His talk makes you think about:

  1. Why build an all-electric car?
  2. What is innovative about the process of building the Tesla Model S car?
  3. What is the most surprising thing about the experience of driving the car?
  4. Can the Tesla become a mass-market vehicle?
  5. Will there be a nationwide network of charging stations for the car that would be fast? 
  6. What’s unusual about the company Solar City?
  7. Can you buy/ lease a solar system?
  8. How do you, the company benefit?
  9. How soon will we go solar?
  10. Why on Earth would someone build a space company (SpaceX)?
  11. What is the big innovation lying ahead?
  12. What is it about you, how have you done this?

* * *

Now this is what I call really, really cool. 🙂

A big “Wow!” to end this first part of Cars, Cars, Cars – A Beginner’s Guide. 

So long!

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