Cars News and Reviews Rise of Self-Driving Car Set to Make My Dream Come True- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

A while ago, I wrote about my ideal Car of the Future: it would be self-driving, not owned by me but available at my beck and call.

It seems that I am not the only one thinking of the ideal car that way. In fact, an analysis by Barclays indicates that the demand for such transportation will be high enough that the self-driving car will largely displace the privately owned car, and that within the next 25 years.

The report, quoted in a Financial Review article, "foresees four vehicle categories -- traditional cars and trucks driven by individuals for work or in rural areas; "family autonomous vehicles," owned by individuals and shared by a single family; "shared autonomous vehicles" that would be "robot taxis" summoned by smartphone; and "pooled shared autonomous vehicles" that accommodate multiple riders, like a bus or a van."

And get this: "Every shared vehicle on the road would displace nine traditional autos, and each pooled shared vehicle would take the place of as many as 18."

With this, the cost of mobility will go down drastically from what it is today, contributing to the popularity of driverless cars in a nice feedback loop.

CelloDad is totally ready for this. There are days that I suspect his dislike of driving is what made him marry his chauffeur - that was me. He's so looking forward to the day that he can be mobile without relying on me, or having to wrangle the shift stick I insist on having. So when the self-driving car comes into its own he will be one happy fellow.

But he is not the only one who will benefit from this new mode of transportation: Children too young to drive, the elderly who are starting to feel uncertain behind the wheel, especially at night, or the occasional car user will all be helped by the self-driving car.

Oh brave new world that hath such vehicles in it!



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Cars News and Reviews Learning HOW to Talk About Climate Change- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

My friends, it is a wonderful time to be a life-long student! Right as my children are transitioning into independence and I'm past changing diapers or even providing for their every meal, massively open online courses, or MOOCs, are coming into their own. Not only that, they are being ofered for free by the best educational institutions partly as a public service, and partly to showcase their best professors.

You can find excellent online courses on statistics, Dante's Inferno, Python programming, growing award winning orchids - and climate change.

I've so far taken four courses on the science of climate change and climate policy. It wasn't always a piece of cake - I did sweat the problem sets on that MITx course given by Kerry Emanuel - but these came naturally to me as I am, at heart, a science geek.

But if I also want to be an effective climate communicator, I'd better get a handle on how to bring the message that we need climate action. There are online courses for that too! Right now, there are two ongoing, each with a different perspective.

One is "Making Sense of Climate Science Denial" at edX, given by a team led by John Cook of the University of Queensland (Australia), a premier climate communicator and the founder of the Skeptical Science website that offers climate science to the general public, as well as pointers on how to debunk the climate myths that are promulgated by the fossil-fuel funded deniers.

The course goes over the psychological barriers (in the minds of the audience) that climate communicators have to overcome before their message can be heard, and lays out the tricks used by the merchants of doubt to discredit climate scientists and to dampen public will for action.

It's a lively course, well produced and well presented, and the feedback so far has been very positive. I would have loved to take this course, but there are only so many hours in a day, and I'm enrolled in a different online course. This one has only tangential bearing on climate change, but is all about communication.

This is a course on "Framing", also at EdX, given by Hans de Bruijn of the University of Delft. To a science geek, it has been eye opening. Scientists tend to think that the truth is self-evident, and that if you speak it clearly enough it is inevitable that people hear you.

Alas, the real world doesn't work that way.

The truth, far from being self-evident, must be brought by persuasion. And the harder the truth, the more persuasive art you need to get your message through. And there are very few truths harder than that of climate change.

The course starts simple, by pointing out examples like people calling the same organisation either "terrorists" or "freedom fighters" depending on what frame you want to cast them in. Then it goes into the principles of framing itself, with plenty of examples from contemporary politics (politicians and their speech writers are master framers). The really cool thing about this course is that they show video clips where actors play out these various frames, so that you can observe them casting their frames in real time.

To a simple geek like me, this course opens a window onto a whole new world! Every week I learn something that changes the way I look at messaging. I've never felt so inept at doing homework, certainly compared to the other people taking the course - I can tell since we grade each other's assignments.

I will never be a politician, but now I can't help but feel respect for the people who understand this art of framing, and know how to make counter-measures if someone else has framed you in an unflattering way: how to re-frame your way out of that.

It's already become clear to me that the rebuttal of climate myths is only a small part of good climate communication, and indeed that it should not be given too much prominence. On the contrary, it's time to re-frame that discussion to put the myth makers on the defensive not the climate scientists. Calling them Merchants of Doubt is a good start. There are a number of less polite epithets, such as "shills" and "trolls" (and others less publishable).

One of the principles of effective communication is that you must establish a personal connection with your audience. This makes intuitive sense to most people, but a scientist has been trained to carefully exclude the personal element from all her professional writing, since science has billed itself as objective and value-free.

But people's perception of climate change is far from objective, and it is certainly not free of values. Consider for instance the effectiveness of religious leaders who are calling for climate action on moral grounds.

The importance of a personal connection with your audience was brought home to me last week, when I spoke at a conference on my journey from scientist to climate communicator. In a marked departure of my previous climate change presentations, I talked about how climate change has affected me personally: how sea level rise is threatening the places where I have lived, and how wild weather is affecting the food on my plate. Sure, I was explicitly asked to talk from a personal angle, but the course really encouraged me to not hold back.

The response stunned me. Usually, people compliment me on the talk, have a few questions and go away. I can only hope that I've sown a seed in their minds. This time, people came up to me with enthusiasm, and asked me if I could give a talk to their clients / church / environmental organisation. I was really blown away. Later, a good friend told me that this talk was way better than the science-only talk she had seen me give before, and was genuinely happy at how my communications skills had improved. What feedback!

So I am going to stop putting scientific objectivity foremost, and I'm going to keep speaking from the heart. After all, it is to the heart that I am speaking, more than to the head. Sure, you need the head to understand the urgency of our predicament. But it is the heart where action originates.

On to the next week. Who know what other revelations this course is yet to bring!



You may also like:

1. How to Spread the Word about Climate Change - Even if You're Not a Climate Scientist

2. Global Warming Denialism May Have Origin in the Victorian Frame of Mind

3. Turns out Americans ARE worried about global warming consequences - they just don't realise it.

4. Global Warming Fact of the Day facebook page: Climate news, denial free. Curated by CelloMom.


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Cars News and Reviews A Tesla on Your Wall?- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

Want a Tesla in your garage but can't afford the Model S? Don't despair. You can still own a piece of Tesla, in the form of its new Powerwall battery backup system.

You'd have to wait, though: Demand has taken even Tesla by surprise. The first 38,000 units have been reserved. That's the company's output until the middle of 2016. Seems like Tesla is fast establishing itself as the new Apple: They have the vision for introducing disruptive technology, and the industrial design talent that turns every Tesla product into an object of desire.

I mean, this thing is almost too pretty to be consigned to your garage. I don't even have a garage, but I would not at all mind having it on my living room wall. It would certainly make a statement.

But if you have a dream that this battery will help you get off-grid, you'd be disappointed. For that you'd need the daily-cycle kind of Powerwall that would help you through the night when your rooftop PV system's output is nil. That would be the 7kWh Powerwall. But for now, Tesla is not selling that in the US, where it's cheaper to use the grid as your night-time backup.

The Powerwall available to US consumers now is the kind that provides you with occasional backup should the grid power go down. This Powerwall is not meant to be cycled daily. It stores 10kWh of energy, about the daily consumption of the average US household.

And I can see why the 10kWh is sell-out popular.

I live in a neighbourhood full of mature trees and above ground powerlines. This kind of electricity grid is vulnerable. Never mind extreme weather: when we sniffed a storm coming, CelloDad would pre-emptively turns off his computers. It's a crazy way to work. (He's got a backup power box now).

In a major storm, downed trees can cause power outage for days. The obvious solution is to upgrade the grid to the standards of the rest of the developed world. That involves putting the power lines underground: it's safer in many ways, and certainly less ugly. I've been told that kind of infrastructure change costs about $1million per mile, so the reality is that it's not coming to my neighbourhood anytime soon.

This is where that Powerwall comes in real handy. You could get backup power from a diesel generator, but it's noisy, smelly and potentially dangerous if you don't vent it properly. A silent system running on natural gas costs about $10,000 to install properly. A 10kWh Powerwall costs $3,500. It's silent, clean, and can be charged by your rooftop PV. And it looks the epitome of cool.

Why wait?

Oh yeah: that backlog until mid 2016.



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