High-Tech Problem Solvers

Lamborghini to become first automobile manufacturer to study carbon fiber in space

Lamborghini has partnered with Houston Methodist Research Institute to study the effects of space on carbon fiber.

Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

A partnership between Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute will send carbon fiber composite materials into space for experimentation then return them to Earth for study.

No earlier than November 2, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying the material will be launched from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Its destination is the International Space Station.

Lamborghini International Space Station technology research Houston Lamborghini hopes to use the results of the study to impact product development here on Earth.Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

The launch is part of a testing campaign sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory and overseen by the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Its aim is to analyze the response of five different composite materials produced by Lamborghini to the extreme stresses induced by the space environment. The results could have numerous real world impacts, including applications in future automobiles, prosthetic implants, and subcutaneous devices.

The five samples of composite materials include a 3D-printed continuous-fiber composite, which Lamborghini says makes it possible to combine the extreme flexibility of "additive manufacturing" with high-level mechanical performance, a strength equal to that of a good quality aluminum for structural uses. This particular material is very important in the biomedical field.

The materials will be aboard the ISS for six months, during which time they will be subjected to extreme thermal excursion cycles ranging from -40 degrees to 200 degrees centigrade. They will also experience high levels of ultraviolet radiation, gamma rays, and the flow of atomic oxygen caused by ionization.

Lamborghini International Space Station technology research Houston After the mission is complete, the samples will be brought back to Earth for additional study.Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

Post-mission, the materials will be returned to Earth and undergo joint testing by Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute in an effort to qualify degradation in terms of chemical, physical, and mechanical properties.

Lamborghini currently uses composite materials throughout its lineup, with carbon fiber playing an instrumental role in the company's entire product range. The company is providing its expertise and materials free of charge for the study.

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Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

Nuro Domino's delivery vehicle

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

You can find out which self-driving vehicles are being tested in your neck of the woods by clicking here.


This article first appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site InnovationMap.

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The new Maps+ app will allow drivers to use a navigation system who had not previously purchased navigation.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is giving its vehicles a new navigation solution. Maps+, an in-vehicle, app-based way-finding program, will begin rolling out to approximately 900,000 model year 2018 and newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles by the end of 2021, starting on April 30.

"We know customers want an easy and convenient in-vehicle experience that improves over time," said Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president of Global Connected Services. "We listened to customer feedback and developed a product that works seamlessly with our current infotainment systems and provides a highly personalized experience that will iterate throughout the lifetime of the vehicle."

Maps+ was developed in partnership with Mapbox. The new app replaces navigation functionality in already-purchased vehicles that had purchased a navigation system. It provides navigation functionality to drivers of vehicles that did not opt for navigation at the onset.

The new application features Alexa build-in voice control that allows users to listen to music or podcasts using the system's integrated audio apps. A search box allows users to find points of interest, shops, restaurants, parking, and more. There is also embedded speed alert, low fuel recognition, predictive keyboard entry, day and night modes, category shortcuts, rear-time traffic routing, and dynamic mapping capability.

"Our obsession is the driver," said Peter Sirota, CEO of Mapbox. "The map is the canvas for providing the driver with a delightful, easy-to-use experience. From discovering new places to avoiding traffic on your commute to paying at the pump or the plug, Maps+ lays the foundation for an excellent navigation experience. We are excited to build upon this with GM to continue to drive adoption."

GM and Mapbox are committed to continuing Maps+ post-launch, developing new features and improvements based on feedback and metrics.

Maps+ will be available on select vehicles through Connected Vehicle, Premium and App Access subscription plans. Current eligible Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners will be notified when their vehicle is eligible for Maps+.

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