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Archive for July, 2009

FRA Issues NPRM on Technology to Prevent Train Collisions

Posted by autotran on July 21, 2009

New Rules Support Use of Positive Train Control

Today Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo announced proposed rules designed to prevent train collisions through the use of Positive Train Control. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) prescribes how railroads must use Positive Train Control systems to prevent train-to-train collisions.

PTC technology is capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements should a locomotive engineer fail to take appropriate action. For example, such technology can force a train to stop before it passes a red signal, thereby averting a potential collision. Other benefits of PTC systems include prevention of over-speed derailments and misaligned switches, as well as unauthorized incursions by a train into work zones.

“These proposed rules give railroads the framework to use this life-saving technology,” said LaHood. “We believe this is an important step toward making freight, intercity and commuter rail lines safer for the benefit of communities across the country.”

Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, major freight railroads and intercity and commuter rail operators must submit their plans for PTC to FRA for approval by April, 16, 2010.  PTC systems must be fully in place by the end of 2015.  The proposed rules will specify how the technically complex PTC systems must function and indicate how FRA will assess a railroad’s PTC plan before it can become operational. 

“FRA is setting the bar high in terms of design, construction and oversight of PTC technologies among different railroads,” said FRA Administrator Joe Szabo.  “FRA will continue to advocate for ways to strengthen safety standards in the railroad industry.”

The major freight railroads have reached an agreement for the operation of PTC technology across different rail systems, allowing for industry-wide use.  In addition, FRA is coordinating efforts with the Federal Communications Commission to make a sufficient amount of radio frequency spectrum available, which is essential for PTC technology to function properly.  This development will allow PTC technology to send and receive a constant stream of wireless signals regarding the location and speed of passenger and freight trains moving along rail lines.



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Mercedes-Benz Reveals Electric SLS AMG

Posted by autotran on July 17, 2009

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is an exotic gull-wing supercar, still in the testing stage, that

  • packs a 6.3-liter
  • V-8 engine
  • capable of 570 horsepower
  • and consuming some gas, one assumes

Hardly en vogue these days, and that might explain the development of an electric version of the supercar, the SLS AMG with electric drive.

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, introduced this year, is powered by a 6.3-liter V-8 engine, but the company is also envisioning an electric version for the future.

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, introduced this year, is powered by a 6.3-liter V-8 engine, but the company is also envisioning an electric version for the future.

On Thursday, Mercedes issued its 1st news release on its electric SLS AMG, which will be unveiled to the press at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

Unlike the electric Tesla Roadster, which is powered by an electric motor at the rear axle, the SLS AMG has 4 electric motors placed near the wheels. Mercedes said the motors aren’t in the wheel hubs, as found in many electric-car concepts. One of the criticisms of in-hub electric motors is the increase in unsprung weight, which encumbers car handling and driving dynamics.

Nevertheless, the SLS AMG electric would be all-wheel drive. The peak output, according to Mercedes, is 392 kW (or the equivalent of 525 horsepower). The protoytpe car (and there is a running prototype, according to Rob Moran, a Mercedes spokesman) uses a 400-volt lithium-ion battery with 48 kWh of energy content. The battery is liquid-cooled and can be recharged under braking.

Mercedes says that acceleration from 0 to 62 miles an hour takes around four seconds, which is similar to the Tesla Roadster (and the gas-engine SLS AMG).

The electric version of the SLS AMG has all the benefits of an electric-car layout (i.e., not having a heavy lump of an engine in the front of the car): low center of gravity, balanced weight distribution.

A diagram of the electric Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

A diagram of the electric Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

Daimler has made several moves recently to show that it is paying more than lip service to its claim that it is exploring alternative energy. In May, Daimler bought a stake in Telsa Motors. At the time, a Daimler board member, Thomas Weber, said “the guys from California also showed us that sporty cars” could be a good target.

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BMW X1 SUV Confirmed For 2011 U.S. Launch

Posted by autotran on July 3, 2009

The next couple of years will be very busy for BMW as it launches a handful of new models including new versions of current top sellers and some models we have never seen before. The new X1 falls into the latter category and will take the automaker into the compact SUV market currently dominated by the likes of the Honda CR-Vand Toyota RAV4.


The X1 has been conceived with the flexibility to offer traditional RWD and xDrive AWD configurations, as well as a wide variety of gasoline and diesel powertrain choices. While we will be seeing the compact SUV for the first time in the metal at this September’s Frankfurt auto show, the new model is not scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. until 2011.

It’ll be released in Europe this fall, however, where it’ll be offered with a choice of four engines – one gasoline and 3 diesels–and will be available in both RWD and AWD.


Every X1 will also be available with BMW’s EfficientDynamics technology, helping to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. These will include brake energy regeneration, engine stop-start systems and a gearshift point indicator.


The initial model range will include the 258hp and 228lb-ft of torque xDrive28i 3.0-liter gasoline model, which can accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 127mph while returning fuel economy of 25mpg. This will be followed by a 204hp and 295lb-ft of torque xDrive23d, a 177hp and 258lb-ft of torque xDrive20d and sDrive20d, and finally a 143hp and 236lb-ft of torque xDrive18d and sDrive18d.

As for styling, BMW family traits can also be found in the design of the front and rear lights, which resemble those used on the recently revealed 2011 5-series GT and the 2009 7-series sedan, respectively. The shots also confirm that BMW designers have stuck closely to the lines of the Concept X1 showcased at last year’s Paris auto show.

Inside, 5 full-sized seats in an elevated position offer generous space, while the backrest in the rear is also adjustable for angle and folds down in a 40/20/20 split. Luggage compartment capacity may be increased from 14.7 cu ft to a maximum of 47.3 cu ft. An electrically operated Panorama glass roof is also available as an option.


Like the 1-Series BMW sedan, coupe and convertible, the X1 won’t be cheap by the time it comes to America. A base price around $30,000 is likely, as is a fully-loaded price above $40,000.


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