Manufacturing Minute: This Breakthrough Could Speed Arrival Of Self-Driving Cars

Also in this episode, a gel that glows and a killer autonomous submarine.

A gel that glows when it detects pollutants, a killer autonomous submarine and a breakthrough that could speed the arrival of self-driving cars. This is your Manufacturing Minute.

Glowing Gel

A team of MIT researchers developed a new material that could be used to detect chemical changes in an environment. This gel is made of a common polymer combined with rare earth metals; together, these form a hardy, self-healing gel that glows when pollutants or toxins are detected.

This glowing gel could be especially handy if applied to structures such as pipes — a vibrant color change could quickly alert engineers to the problem.

The Starfish Destroyer

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most spectacular and important ecosystems — but it’s also under threat from a particularly large species of coral-eating starfish.

Australian researchers, however, hope that a new robot submarine will prove far more effective at eradicating them than human divers.

The COTSbot seeks out the crown-of-thorns starfish with a sophisticated image recognition system, then uses its pneumatic arm to inject a lethal dose of bile salts.

Developers eventually hope to deploy a fleet of pest-killing robots all across the 1,400-mile reef.

Laser Sensors

LIDAR (or light and radar) sensors serve as the eyes of self-driving cars. Usually mounted atop the roof of the car, these sensors monitor their surroundings by shining a light on an object and then measuring the time needed for it to bounce back.

But the LIDARs being used today, such as those early designs of Google’s autonomous cars, are too large and too expensive.

According to WIRED, researchers at UC-Berkeley say they’ve developed a new breed of laser tech that could reduce these hindrances and could even lead to a broader range of autonomous vehicles.

So, What Do You Think?

Google’s self-driving car tests in Austin are already proving that humans can’t drive as efficiently as computers. All 16 of the accidents were the fault of human drivers.

All signs point to the arrival of self-driving cars — perhaps even sooner than we think.

What do you think? Will autonomous vehicles eventually become the new normal? Are drivers ready to surrender the steering wheel? Will they ever be?

Email us or leave your comments below.

That’s all the time we have for today, but check our sites every Tuesday and Thursday for your next Manufacturing Minute.

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