American Solar Challenge 2016 Road Race

Listed below are the 13 solar car teams which have qualified for the American Solar Challenge 2016 road race (including provisional qualifications). Social media hyperlinks are also provided (click on the icons). The road race begins on 30 July, with the Award Ceremony being held on 6 August. Follow the ASC on Facebook and Twitter, check out the illustrated route details I posted earlier, and catch the live GPS tracking and timing updates. I will not be plotting my usual graphs for the ASC, leaving it up to Jeffrey Cwagenberg’s site. I will post regular updates, however.

2 – Michigan  
Michigan came 4th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia and won ASC 2014. Their car is named Aurum, and is described here. The car has been modified to fit ASC rules, with a “safety bulge” beside the driver. This has an aerodynamic cost, and incurs a daily 6-minute penalty, but Michigan are still race favourites. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

3 – Kentucky  
Their car is named Gato del Sol V. It is three-wheeled. This team has provisional qualification for the ASC.

6 – Berkeley (CalSol)  
Their car is named Zephyr. It is four-wheeled and symmetrical.

9 – Iowa State (PrISUm)  
This team won FSGP 2015 and came third in ASC 2014. They have a teaser video for ASC 2016 here, and there is also some news coverage with details on their car, which is a three-wheeler named Phaëton 2. Apparently, like some other teams, they have a daily 5-minute penalty for failing the wet braking test.

17 – Illinois State  
Their car is named Mercury 5s, and is a rebuilt version of the Mercury V car lost to a battery fire in 2014. The car is four-wheeled and symmetrical.

32 – Principia  
Principia came 17th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia (7.19 hours behind Toronto) and 6th in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. Their well-travelled symmetrical four-wheeled car is named Ra 9, and is described here. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

35 – Minnesota  
Minnesota came 5th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge Cruiser Class, the only American team in that class. Their car is named Eos, and is described here. They are reporting their race experiences on their website here. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP, and are the only Cruiser to qualify.

42 – Missouri S&T  
This team is racing the latest in their Solar Miner series, which is a three-wheeled car. There is some news coverage of the team here.

51 – Dunwoody (American S.E.R.)  
This team, made up of apprentices from Buhler North America in conjunction with Dunwoody College of Technology, is partnered with the Swiss Team 15, and will merge with team 15 for the ASC road race, due to problems. Their car is named SER-2. Provided by their Swiss colleagues, it is four-wheeled and symmetrical. This team has provisional qualification for the ASC.

55 – Poly Montreal  
This team came second in FSGP 2015. Their car is named Esteban 8. It is four-wheeled and symmetrical. Apparently they had to do some repairs after an incident during road-testing, but the car is fine now.

77 – Toronto (Blue Sky)  
Toronto came 12th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia (8.76 hours behind Michigan). Their car is named Horizon. It is asymmetrical, but they do not seem to have had the same kind of difficulties with the ASC rules as Michigan have. There is a campus news story on the team here.

92 – ETS Quebec  
Their new symmetrical four-wheeled titanium-chassis car is named Éclipse 9, and is described here. The car appears to be overly wide, and has attracted a daily 3-minute race penalty (half that of Michigan). They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

828 – Appalachian State (Sunergy)  
Their car is named Apperion. It is three-wheeled. There is some news coverage of the team here. They qualified for the road race on the first day of the FSGP.

Click photos for larger images and photo credits, and see also the route map below.

It is a hillier route than the World Solar Challenge, spanning 1,355 metres (4,446 feet) from lowest to highest point (altitudes taken from a 30-second raster grid, not from actual measurements on the road itself). I expect that some cars will struggle a little on some of the hills (note that this chart is reversed compared to the map above).


Looking back: 1991


Singapore

In 1991, I started my second lecturing job, at the National University of Singapore. I was to spend three years in Singapore, and a great experience it was – culturally, intellectually, and (of course) gastronomically. That year saw the launch of the World Wide Web on the Internet (although it was to be almost three years before I realised that the WWW existed). The arXiv launched in 1991 as well (I was unaware of that too). Linux was released later in the year (but I was already using other flavours of Unix, so it wasn’t really relevant). That year saw the release of several bad films, but also the long-awaited Terminator 2:

Also in 1991, Eugenio Moggi developed a confusing functional programming construct, which shared the name of an confusing concept in the philosophy of Leibniz. Robin Milner, who indirectly influenced my career in several ways, won a well-deserved Turing Award.


Replica of Ötzi in the Smithsonian Museum (my photo)

In what was to prove a very significant discovery, Sumio Iijima observed carbon nanotubes for the first time. In the Ötztal Alps, a mummified man from around 3300 BC was discovered. Examination of “Ötzi” taught us a great deal about life in Chalcolithic Europe.


Mount Pinatubo erupts

World events of 1991 included Operation Desert Storm (responding to the invasion of Kuwait), the eruption of Mount Pinatubo (the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century), and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (which recreated forgotten nations like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia).

Books published in 1991 included the unusual Empire of the Ants, the interesting The Infinite Plan, the underrated Jurassic Park, and the delightful Sophie’s World. I enjoyed all of those (although I did not read them all that year).


Formula Sun Grand Prix 2016

Most competitors in the American Solar Challenge 2016 are now running laps in the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. I thought it would be interesting to compare the fastest lap speeds so far (from here) against selected average speeds from the World Solar Challenge 2015:

Michigan has the fastest FSGP lap, running faster than their WSC 2015 average speed. Principia and Toronto were also running faster. The other interesting point is that all the fastest cars seem to be four-wheelers.

Note: this picture has been updated to replace an earlier one.


American Solar Challenge 2016 Progress Report

Well, scrutineering for the American Solar Challenge 2016, is over, with a surprisingly small number of teams having passed (although I assume that further scrutineering will continue into overtime). I have updated my ASC 2016 status page to reflect the results so far (and will continue to update it as needed).

What comes next? First, starting on Tuesday 26 July, is the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP), which is a kind of pre-race race on the track at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex.

The main American Solar Challenge event starts on Saturday 30 July, beginning at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and finishing at Wind Cave National Park.

Michigan will be defending the title of “Fastest solar car in the Western Hemisphere.”

Here is the American Solar Challenge 2016 route (I have also posted some illustrated route details):

It is a hillier route than the World Solar Challenge, spanning 1,355 metres (4,446 feet) from lowest to highest point (altitudes taken from a 30-second raster grid, not from actual measurements on the road itself). I expect that some cars will struggle a little on some of the hills.

Best of luck to all teams!


American Solar Challenge 2016 Updated Status

Listed below are the 20 remaining solar car teams competing in the American Solar Challenge 2016, with their current status based on the latest scrutineering results as at 20:11 on Thursday 28 July EDT. Social media hyperlinks are also provided (click on the icons). Team 13 (Michigan State) appears to have withdrawn, while Teams 24 (Waterloo), 57 (SIUE), and 786 (Western Michigan) have not passed scrutineering.

Registration and scrutineering for the race began on 22 July, the qualifying track race (FSGP 2016) began on 26 July, and the ASC itself begins on 30 July, with the Award Ceremony being held on 6 August. See this official list for scrutineering details, follow the ASC on Facebook and on Twitter, and check out the illustrated route details I posted earlier.

There are four kinds of cars in the American Solar Challenge this year:

  • Three-wheeled cars like #3 (Kentucky) – these tend to be the fastest, but are no longer legal in the World Solar Challenge, and so teams intending to race in the World Solar Challenge do not build them. There are eight three-wheeled cars at ASC 2016.
  • Asymmetrical four-wheeled cars like #2 (Michigan) or #77 (Toronto) – these are the cars that win the modern World Solar Challenge, because of the aerodynamic advantages of having the driver between the front and back wheel on one side (although there are some engineering challenges in building asymmetrical cars).
  • Symmetrical four-wheeled cars like #32 (Principia) – having the driver in the centre, these are a little slower than the asymmetrical cars (in the 2015 World Solar Challenge, the fastest symmetrical car finished 8th), but they avoid some of the problems that asymmetry brings. Eight cars at ASC 2016 are in this category.
  • Cruisers like #24 (Waterloo) or #35 (Minnesota) – these cars feature practicality and the ability to carry passengers rather than just raw speed, and are built to race in the World Solar Challenge Cruiser class. Racing Cruisers appears to be increasingly popular.

It will be interesting to see how these four types of solar car will perform at ASC 2016.

US  2 – MichiganPASS (10 greens), grid #1  

Michigan came 4th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia and won ASC 2014, making them the fastest American team. As always, they have had a very professional pre-race testing programme. Their speedy asymmetrical car is named Aurum, and is described here. The car has been modified to fit ASC rules, with a new “safety bulge” beside the driver. This “bulge” has an aerodynamic cost, as well as incurring a daily 6-minute race penalty for exceeding maximum car size limits. However, Michigan are still race favourites. They start the FSGP in pole position, being first through scrutineering.

US  3 – KentuckyPASS (10 greens), grid #4  

Their car is named Gato del Sol V. It is three-wheeled.

US  6 – Berkeley (CalSol)PASS, minor issues (3 issues), grid #15  

Their car is named Zephyr. It is four-wheeled and symmetrical.

US  9 – Iowa State (PrISUm)PASS (10 greens), grid #11  

This team won FSGP 2015 and came third in ASC 2014. They have a teaser video for ASC 2016 here, and there is also some news coverage with details on their car, which is a three-wheeler named Phaëton 2. Their next car (for WSC 2017) is planned to be a four-seat Cruiser named Penumbra.

US  11 – NorthwesternPASS, minor issues (3 issues), grid #13  

Their three-wheeled car is named SC6, and is described here. They are also building an SC7 for future races.

CH  15 – ZHAW (Solar Energy Racers)PASS (10 greens), grid #16  

This Swiss team came 5th in the 2013 World Solar Challenge, but did not race in 2015. They came 11th in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. They are partnered with the American Team 51. Their car is named SER-1, and is an older three-wheeled car, which raced in Australia in 2011. They have had a litany of problems during scrutineering.

US  17 – Illinois StatePASS (10 greens), grid #5  

Their car is named Mercury 5s, and is a rebuilt version of the Mercury V car lost to a battery fire in 2014. The car is four-wheeled and symmetrical. Going by Facebook, the team was still doing construction on July 19, but had a successful late-night test, and here they are.

CA  24 – Waterloo (Midnight Sun)Problems (2 issues), no grid pos  

This team have fielded a very interesting-looking carbon fibre Cruiser, weighing 420 kg. Their car is named Midnight Sun XI, and is described here. There is some news coverage of the team here.

US  32 – PrincipiaPASS (10 greens), grid #7  

Principia came 17th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia (7.19 hours behind Toronto) and 6th in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. They have had a very professional pre-race testing programme. Their well-travelled symmetrical four-wheeled car is named Ra 9, and is described here. They report that the wet brake test in dynamic scrutineering was challenging.

US  35 – MinnesotaPASS, minor issues (Electrical), grid #2  

Minnesota came 5th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge Cruiser Class, the only American team in that class. They have had a very professional pre-race testing and team bonding programme, but their solar car has been getting strange reactions from truckers. Their car is named Eos, and is described here. They are reporting their race experiences on their website here. They are in second pole position for FSGP.

US  42 – Missouri S&TPASS, minor issues (Dynamics), grid #12  

This team is racing the latest in their Solar Miner series. There is some news coverage of the team here.

US  49 – Georgia TechPASS, minor issues (2 issues), grid #17  

Their new symmetrical four-wheeled aluminium-chassis car is named SR-2, and is described here. The team is not particularly active on social media.

US  51 – Dunwoody (American S.E.R.)PASS (10 greens), grid #14  

This team, made up of apprentices from Buhler North America in conjunction with Dunwoody College of Technology, is partnered with the Swiss Team 15. They were one of the first teams to set up camp at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. Their car is named SER-2. Provided by their Swiss colleagues, it is four-wheeled and symmetrical.

CA  55 – Poly MontrealPASS (10 greens), grid #3  

This team came second in FSGP 2015. Their car is named Esteban 8. It is four-wheeled and symmetrical. Apparently they had to do some repairs after an incident during road-testing, but the car is fine now.

US  57 – SIUEIncomplete (8 issues), no grid pos  

Their car is named NOVA. It is three-wheeled. On arrival at Pittsburgh International Race Complex, it seems that some assembly was still required.

CA  77 – Toronto (Blue Sky)PASS, minor issues (Battery Prot), grid #9  

Toronto came 12th in the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia (8.76 hours behind Michigan). Their car is named Horizon. It is asymmetrical, but they do not seem to have had the same kind of difficulties with the ASC rules as Michigan have. There is a campus news story on the team here.

CA  92 – ETS QuebecPASS (10 greens), grid #8  

Their new symmetrical four-wheeled titanium-chassis car is named Éclipse 9, and is described here. The car appears to be overly wide, and has attracted a daily 3-minute race penalty (half that of Michigan).

CA  116 – McMasterPASS, minor issues (Support), grid #10  

Their car is named Spitfire, and is described here. It is three-wheeled, with an aluminium chassis.

US  786 – Western Michigan (Sunseeker)FAIL (Battery Prot), no grid pos  

Their new symmetrical four-wheeled carbon-fibre car is named Sunseeker 2016, and is described here. The team were late arrivals at Pittsburgh International Race Complex, because of car problems.

US  828 – Appalachian State (Sunergy)PASS, minor issues (Support), grid #6  

Their car is named Apperion. It is three-wheeled. There is some news coverage of the team here.

Click photos for larger images and photo credits, and see also the route map below.


Black lives, Aussie lives

Let me attempt an Australian perspective on the current “Black Lives Matter” campaign in the US. Observing from across the Pacific, the campaign does not actually seem to be primarily about minimising the loss of Black lives. If we look at the four causes of preventable death in the chart below, the most serious problem among Black people in the US is in fact homicide (in 90% of cases, homicide by other Black people). Over 8,000 Black people were murdered in the US in 2013. Surely this is unacceptable! Following homicides are motor vehicle accidents and suicides (among US Whites, as in Australia, the sequence is reversed). Black deaths by legal intervention (including justified shootings, unjustified shootings, and car-chase deaths) are less than 1% of the total for the four causes.


Death rates for selected causes in the US and Australia (2013 data from the CDC and various Australian sources)

Here in Australia, there has long been considerable angst about Aussie lives lost on the road, and the government has responded with a wide range of solutions – more traffic policing, increased penalties during key holiday periods, random breath testing, red-light and speed cameras, education of high-school students, and advertising campaigns like the one below. These initiatives have been very successful: the Australian motor vehicle accident death rate has dropped to less than one fifth of what it was in 1975, and by my calculation, over 100,000 Aussie lives have been saved during that time (of course, improvements in vehicle safety have also contributed). I have no idea what a campaign specifically to address Black homicide deaths would look like, but Richmond, California provides one controversial option. New Orleans has another approach.

Victorian TAC “Slowing Down Won’t Kill You” anti-speeding campaign

If the “Black Lives Matter” campaign is not primarily about minimising the loss of Black lives, then what is it about? From the other side of the planet, it seems to be primarily about justice. Just as we Australians see death by shark as particularly horrible (rare though it is), many people see death at the hands of the police, even if accidental, as particularly abhorrent, because police are supposed to be the guardians of justice.

Of course, any interaction between police and citizens has a chance of going wrong, particularly in the US, where guns are ubiquitous, and where police are justifiably cautious (given that an average of 48 police officers are shot and killed each year – a death rate of 5.2 per 100,000). If each interaction has a probability p of catastrophe, we can reduce the number of catastrophes by reducing the number of interactions, or by reducing p, or both (see the chart below).

Reducing the number of interactions between police and citizens effectively means less policing. This has been a key demand of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and includes decriminalising a wide range of minor offenses as well as halting random “stop-and-question” actions by police. Of course, the downside to less policing is an inevitable increase in crime, so any initiatives of this kind require careful thought.

Reducing the probability of interactions going wrong essentially means better training. Police need to internalise an appropriate use-of-force model (like the Canadian one above), they need good strategies for dealing with the mentally ill, they need good community relations, and they need enough training in non-lethal approaches to dangerous situations that they can react correctly in a split second. Effective computer simulation tools are a key part of such training. Naturally, such training improvements would require additional government expenditure on law enforcement. Also (although the “Black Lives Matter” movement has campaigned against it), police need top-of-the-line body armour – the more likely police are to survive being shot at, the less likely they are to shoot too soon themselves. Finally, it seems to me that gun owners also need training on how to interact with police in a way that cannot be misconstrued as threatening (the ACLU recommends, inter alia, “don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent” and “keep your hands where the police can see them”).

The other issue often raised is an alleged racial disparity in US deaths by legal intervention. A close look at the bar chart above shows that US Blacks are 2.4 times more likely to die by legal intervention than US Whites. However, when crime rates are taken into account, this apparent racial disparity drops or disappears (depending on how the adjustment is done). That is, police are more likely to interact with citizens in high-crime communities, and a small fraction of those interactions will end in shootings by police (whether justified or unjustified). However, both simulation studies and empirical data suggest that such deadly encounters are not, in fact, biased against Blacks.

Update: since this post was written and scheduled, there has tragically been another mass shooting of police officers in the US. Blue lives matter, whether they are Black or White.


American Solar Challenge 2016 Race Route

These are the main stops on the route for the American Solar Challenge 2016. See also the route map and route notes. The route covers 1975 miles (3178 km) altogether, with the four stages being, respectively, 23%, 26%, 43%, and 8% of the total.

Stage 1 (Sat, Jul 30) – Cuyahoga Valley National Park

This location in Brecksville, OH marks the race start.

Stage 1 (Sat, Jul 30) – Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

This checkpoint is where the Wright brothers began. There will be an independent overnight stop in the evening.

Stage 1 (Sun, Jul 31) – George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

This location is a stage stop.

Stage 2 (Mon, Aug 1) – Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

There is a checkpoint at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, MO. There will be an independent overnight stop in the evening.

Stage 2 (Tue, Aug 2) – Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

This location is a stage stop.

Stage 3 (Wed, Aug 3) – Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

There is a checkpoint at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, KS. There will be an independent overnight stop in the evening.

Stage 3 (Thu, Aug 4) – Homestead National Monument of America

There is a checkpoint at the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, NE. There will be an independent overnight stop in the evening. Some cars may arrive here on Wednesday, August 3.

Stage 3 (Fri, Aug 5) – Scotts Bluff National Monument

This location on the Oregon Trail is a stage stop. Some cars may arrive here on Thursday, August 4.

Stage 4 (Sat, Aug 6) – Wind Cave National Park

This location in Hot Springs, SD marks the finish line. The awards dinner and ceremony will be at the end of the day.

A journey that celebrates both the future of technology and the history of the USA!