Magnetic roads: Crashes could be eliminated with cars that stick to the ground

Cars could soon be sticking to the road a lot more after the testing of magnetic roadways by car manufacturer Volvo.

The company has been using magnets embedded in test roads in the aim to be one of the first companies to introduce self-driving cars and also reduce the number of crashes.

It says it could soon be testing the magnets and futuristic roads in real-life traffic as well.

Volvo created a 100m long test track in Sweden and placed a pattern of magnets 200mm below the road’s surface. It then equipped the car with several magnetic field sensors.

Magnetic roads could bring many advantages to drivers and manufacturers. These include being able to position cars on the road in preventative safety system that could help to keep cars on the road.

Magnets could also allow roads to be smaller, with narrower lanes, as self-driving cars could be kept in position.


“Our aim is for the car to be able to handle the driving all by itself. “


Jonas Ekmark, the preventive safety leader at Volvo confirmed the company has been testing the technology.

He said: “The magnets create an invisible ‘railway’ that literally paves the way for a positioning inaccuracy of less than one decimetre. We have tested the technology at a variety of speeds and the results so far are promising.”

“Our aim is for the car to be able to handle the driving all by itself. Accurate, reliable positioning is a necessary prerequisite for a self-driving car.

“It is fully possible to implement autonomous vehicles without changes to the present infrastructure. However, this technology adds interesting possibilities, such as complementing road markings with magnets.”

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Volvo is certainly not the only company to be trying to figure out the best ways to help prevent accidents and for some years now reversing-aid cameras have available in cars.

Recently competitors Toyota filed a patent, published at the beginning of March, which surrounds ‘collision determination’.

There are very few details included in the patent but it does say that a collision determination device involves a radar detection unit which uses radar waves to detect objects around the vehicle.

This will apparently work in tandem with an image based detector and both attempt to prevent collisions.


“ A large-scale implementation of road magnets could very well be part of Sweden’s aim.”


There is still a long way to go until we see magnetic roads replace traditional existing roads, and many barriers that need to be crossed, but Sweden has been working with the car manufacturer say they could implement a large-scale use of them.

Claes Tingvall from the Swedish Transport Administration, who worked with Volvo, said the work has been promising.

He said: “The test results are very interesting, especially when adding the potential for improved safety as well the advantages for the development of self-driving vehicles.

“A large-scale implementation of road magnets could very well be part of Sweden’s aim to pioneer technology that contributes to sustainable mobility.”


Image courtesy of Volvo Cars.


Oceanic research steps into the future as sci-fi vessel SeaOrbiter gets funding

The world’s most futuristic-looking research vessel could soon be setting sail after it met its crowdfunding goal of €325,000.

Designed by marine architect Jacques Rougerie, SeaOrbiter will drift with oceanic currents to explore areas of the ocean that have never been studied before.

SeaOrbiter is designed to address the shortage of ocean research that has been undertaken. 90% of the ocean is still unexplored, and it is estimated that two thirds of marine species are yet to be discovered.

Looking like a moveable version of the Operation Hennessey Underwater SeaLab from the film the Life Aquatic, the vessel features a vertical wind turbine and solar panels to generate power; an 18.5m high lookout post; a diving room and wet lab; a modular laboratory, medical and fitness areas; underwater bunks and pressurised living quarters and a variety of underwater dive pits.

SeaOrbiter is also kitted out with a range of support vessels and subsea exploration devices, including a diving drone capable of exploring the oceanic abyss at depths up to 6,000m – far deeper than it is possible for humans to travel.

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First and foremost, SeaOrbiter is a research vessel with the capability to gather and analyse data. However, it will also serve as a multimedia communications platform, churning out educational programming that has been entirely shot and edited onboard. And that’s not all: the pressurised living areas also enable SeaOrbiter to function as a space simulator.

The vessel is uniquely able to house a crew of 18 – 22 people to live onboard for long periods of time in remote areas of the ocean. Typically expeditions would last for three to six months, although the crew could remain onboard for much longer if required.

The crew would be made up of six ship operators, four scientific researchers, two multimedia operators and six ‘aquanauts’ developing research programmes.  But they won’t just be adrift and unsupported – a shore-based team will remain in constant touch to collect data and ensure everything goes smoothly.

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In a sense, SeaObiter has been more than forty years in the making. The vessel’s designer and champion Jacques Rougerie has a long-standing background in marine design, and has been developing undersea structures for decades.

His 1973 project with NASA to develop an underwater research village has been instrumental in our view of undersea living, and he has produced several landmark vessels for oceanographic exploration. Rougerie seems to have been working towards SeaOrbiter for most of his career, but only now has the technology come of age.

The project was funded through French crowdfunding website Kiss Kiss Bank Bank, with 664 people handing over between €10 and €40,000+ to raise a total of €344,650. In a video uploaded to the SeaOrbiter website, Rougerie thanked his supporters. He said: “We registered more than 600 contributors, including 20 big donors and one family who highly contributed to it”.

Now SeaOrbiter has received funding the challenge of building it can start. Rougerie expects construction to take two years, so by 2016 we could be following the launch of this remarkable vessel.


Images courtesy of SeaOrbiter.