Posts Tagged 'Safety'

Beware — Pride Goes Before a Fall

Technological “Hubris” Leads To Disasters, Experts Say.

The AP (7/12, Borenstein) reports on a “familiar” scenario: first there is “a technological disaster, then a presidential commission examining what went wrong,” then “a discovery that while technology marches on, concern for safety lags. Technology isn’t as foolproof as it seemed.” A “common thread” in these disasters, including the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig – “which the new presidential oil spill commission will be looking for – often is technological arrogance and hubris…the belief by those in charge that they’re the experts, that they know what they’re doing is safe. Add to that the human weaknesses of avoidance, greed and sloppiness, say academics who study disasters.” Bob Bea, a UC Berkeley engineering professor and disaster expert, “categorizes disasters into four groups.” Bea believes BP falls into a group in which “an organization simply ignores warning signs through overconfidence and incompetence.” The article also quotes analysis by experts from Rutgers, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Rice and Stanford.

Reposted from ASEE First Bell for July 12, 2010

A Robot for My Co-Pilot

In-Dash Robot Uses Facial Expressions To Communicate With Driver

The Wired (11/17, Squatriglia) “Autopia” blog reported, “Audi and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology envision a future where robots riding shotgun make us happier, safer drivers and create a ‘symbiotic relationship’ between car and driver.”  The robot, called Affective Intelligent Driving Agent, or Aida, “would analyze our driving habits, keeping track of frequent routes and destinations to provide real-time traffic info, and make friendly suggestions along the way,” as well as “give gentle reminders to buckle up, watch our speed or slow down for that school bus up ahead.”  The robot “uses a small laser video projector to convey facial expressions and other information.”  Having “human-like motion” and the ability to express emotions, researchers say, “makes it easier to convey information,” since “reading a facial expression is instantaneous.”  The researchers “plan to build a driving simulator for a controlled study” by next year, and “real-world tests will follow in 2011.”

Reposted from the November 18, 2009 ASEE First Bell briefing.

Smart Speed Bumps

Smart Speed Bumps Address Environmental, Safety Concerns.

USA Today (10/6, Hawley) reports that “concerns over the environment – and the utter annoyance of having to brake and accelerate frequently – have prompted one Mexican state government to embrace a ‘smart’ speed bump that could make driving smoother, without sacrificing safety.”  The smart bump, “being developed by Mexico-based Decano Industries, automatically lowers into the ground when drivers go the speed limit or slower.  Drive too fast, and the bump stays up.”  With this speed bump, said Decano Industries President Carlos Cano, “people will feel rewarded for obeying the law.”  USA Today notes, “The technology is relatively basic:  The speed bump is formed by two steel plates that form a triangle sticking out of the pavement.  When a car tire touches the plate, a patented device under the triangle measures the force of the impact.”

Reposted from the October 6, 2009 ASEE First Bell briefing.

Lighter than Air

The Knovel Library contains hundreds of full-text online resources in a wide variety of science and engineering disciplines, as well as innovative research and analysis tools for using them. Here is one of the latest items to appear in the Knovel Library:

Alternative Fuels – The Future of Hydrogen (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Fairmont Press, Inc
Subject Area: Sustainable Energy and Development

Description: The Second Edition of this pioneering work addresses emerging factors affecting energy production and use, including the availability and desirability of various fuels.  The text provides extensive discussion on hydrogen sources, both solar and nuclear, and fuel cell technology, as well as on other alternative fuels such as biomass, and wind power.   The book delves into cost analysis, regulatory issues, barriers to implementation, conversion and storage systems, thermodynamic efficiency, fuel chain efficiency, air emission issues, and safety.  The book also covers natural gas, hydrogen gas, methanol, ethanol, and steam reforming.

Engineers and Accidents

COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT COLLOQUIUM – SPECIAL SEMINAR

SPEAKER:          C. Michael Holloway, Senior Research Engineer, NASA Langley Research Center

TOPIC:            Why Engineers Should Read Accident Reports

DATE:       September 23, 2009

TIME:       3:30 p.m.  (Light refreshments served outside OLS 009 at 3:15 p.m.)

PLACE:            Olsson Hall room 009

Abstract:  Surveys have shown that very few engineers, whether practitioners or researchers, read accident reports. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, because people who regularly read accident reports can reap important benefits, both for themselves and the organizations for which they work. This talk will explain some of these benefits, using examples from famous and not-so-famous aviation and space accidents. Four specific benefits will be discussed: (1) an improved ability to separate myths from reality, both myths about specific accidents and myths concerning accidents in general; (2) an increased understanding of the consequences of unlikely events, which can help inform future designs; (3) a greater recognition of the limits of mathematical models; and (4) guidance on potentially relevant research directions that may contribute to safety improvements in future systems. Audience participation will be encouraged throughout the talk, and a challenge to all present will be issued at the end.


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