ROADS REPORT

Article December 28, 2000
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Chipping away at vehicle corrosion
Earlier this year, Chrysler revealed that it was close to perfecting a revolutionary plastic car body that needs no paint and could cut the cost of a car in half, according to the Salt Institute¹s Report. The car manufacturer said it will use recycled plastic from polyethylene terephthalene (PET) beverage bottles to reduce the number of major parts in a car from 80 to six pieces. Color is then molded into the plastic. Chief designer Tom Tremont said the PET vehicle costs are substantially less because the car will not require a steel skeleton undercarriage, which other auto makers¹ plastic bodies require, providing a lightweight advantage and the elimination of corrosion concerns.

Even the Bulls wait in traffic
Think you¹re the only one getting stuck in traffic? Members of the six-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls had a difficult time getting to game five of this year¹s NBA finals at home, according to the Daily Herald, a Chicago-area newspaper. Several players were late to the United Center due to traffic problems on all the roads heading toward downtown Chicago, including Michael Jordan, who showed up at 6:43 p.m., 13 minutes past the team deadline. Reserve Scott Burrell was 17 minutes late, but was pleased to find out Jordan was only four minutes ahead of him. Dennis Rodman, who is always late except on those occasions when he is not sure of the game time, arrived at 6:53 p.m. There were so many tardy players at 6:30 p.m., when team equipment manager John Ligmanowski took attendance, that he wondered if the Bulls would be able to field a full team, and according to the report, thought that he might have to ³suit up² himself.

Cracking up
A minor earthquake that happened over a year ago may be the cause of fissures that led to the close of a main artery between the LaGrange, Ill., area and Chicago, according to the LaGrange Press. Seismic recording centers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recorded the seismic event that registered under 2 on the Richter scale. The tremors, about 100,000 times smaller than the 7.1 quake that shook the San Francisco area in October 1989, may have been enough to cause the cracks and dips in the roadway surface and in the concrete barriers bordering the road. According to the Illinois DOT officials and published reports, records indicated that at 5:38 p.m. on June 3, 1997, the area near Joliet Road was the epicenter of a seismic event. After identifying the problems with the heavily traveled road, IDOT elected to close Joliet Road because of concerns about its integrity and the safety of drivers using it. Before the link to an earthquake was found, IDOT officials brought in rock mechanics, soil and geology experts to analyze the area and determine what could have caused the problems.

ŒRock¹ the boat
Proving that concrete can float, the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH), recently won the 1998 American Society of Civil Engineers/Master Builders National Concrete Canoe Competition held on Canyon Lake in Rapid City, S.D. Racing a concrete canoe they designed and built, UAH triumphed over 20 other competing teams‹and the laws of physics‹in the 11th annual competition. By placing first overall, the team earned $5,000 in scholarships awarded by Master Builders Inc. Other winners included: California State University-Sacramento, Clemson University, Florida Institute of Technology, and the University of Washington in second, third, fourth and fifth places, respectively.

Sixty percent of the teams¹ scores in this think or swim competition were based on written and oral presentations detailing the canoe¹s design, construction and materials. The canoes also had to pass a critical ³swamp test² requiring submerged canoes to ³pop-up² and float. The rest of the score was earned in sprint and distance races. The canoes, which were constructed with concrete and reinforcing materials, ranged between 17 and 23 ft long and weighed between 49 and 160 lb.

Guidance to the future
Imagine a future without traffic jams, accidents or bus drivers. Sound too good to be true? At Demo ¹98, held last June in the Netherlands, a showcase of automated vehicle guidance systems were demonstrated and unveiled (see Final Stop, June TM&S, p 46). Driverless mini-buses slid over the road, cars received instructions from traffic lights and an electronically linked truck mimicked one in front. This is made possible through automated vehicle guidance, systems that can take over tasks ranging from assistance in driving to recognizing danger. The five day demonstration was organized by the Dutch Transportation Ministry and the TNO research institute and is the first in Europe, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Car manufacturers such as Daimler-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan are developing guidance technologies. TNO researchers have developed a car with the latest technologies such as danger control, cruise control and navigation systems. Mercedes-Benz has developed a ³virtual drawbar² linking trucks electronically, with a leading vehicle taking over steering functions, according to the report.

There have been some problems. One plan that went wrong was a collision-warning system in several Greyhound buses in the U.S. that warned the driver when other vehicles approached. The speed control radar used by police deregulated the anti-collision systems aboard the buses.

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