The pick of the crop from the E&T mailbag and inbox.
Why don’t lorries go driverless?
There is little to no economic benefit in driverless cars. No doubt they will be more expensive and only do what I can adequately do for myself, so why bother? The focus should be on automating that part of the transport infrastructure that would provide direct benefits.
The automation of heavy goods vehicles would be far more beneficial. They could travel at unsocial hours of night, freeing up road space. They would not fall asleep at the wheel thus avoiding accidents, wouldn’t need to overtake each other going uphill thereby blocking motorway lanes. They wouldn’t tailgate so other motorists can get off the motorway safely instead of having to force a gap in a long line of nose-to-tail trucks.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Why aren’t the technology companies on the right case, or are they too scared of the Teamsters in the good ol’ USA?
Mike Danbury MIET, by email
UK will adopt nuclear ‘at any price’
There are a few answers to the questions Peter Finch asks about nuclear power in the April issue of E&T. Germany has decided to abandon nuclear. The Areva consortium formed to construct the European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) included Siemens as a partner. Siemens did not see any benefit in being part of Areva since Germany had opted out of nuclear power. This left a gaping hole in finances and several technical problems. The EPRs being constructed by Areva are massively over budget and delayed in construction.
The market for energy is distorted, or even does not exist, if one supplier is favoured with a fixed price. There will probably be legal challenges from energy suppliers, as well as countries that object to the high subsidies being paid.
Enter the Chinese. Hard bargaining extracted major subsidies and concessions from the UK government, including a very generous fixed energy price. The UK would also be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste, and decommissioning. China insists that it supplies components for any new reactor build if it invests in UK reactors.
The UK is the only country in Europe to enshrine gas-emission targets in law. Germany, is free to make decisions unfettered by any Act of Parliament and has opted for construction of high-efficiency coal-fired power plants.
Other European countries including Denmark - home of wind energy - have done the same. The UK has little hope of meeting gas-emission targets set out in the Climate Change Act 2008 without a significant amount of nuclear power. Hence the desperate need for nuclear power, almost at any price.
Being an octogenarian, and a retired power consultant, I remember the words of the late Aneurin Bevan in the Attlee government: “On an island, built on coal, and surrounded by seas full of fish, only a genius can create a shortage of both”.
John Cure CEng FIET, by email
Why 3D will remain a gimmick
Neil Dodgson (Letters, April) oversimplifies the present situation with regard to 3D in cinemas. There are three technologies in current use: the polarising filters that he mentions, the Dolby 3D system which splits the visible light spectrum into six bands and allocates three to each eye image, and ‘active’ systems in which LCD shutters in the glasses are synchronised with the alternating left eye-right eye images on the screen by an infrared link.
There is also now renewed interest in dual-projector arrangements, particularly in venues with larger screens. These produce considerably greater screen brightness than the more common single- projector systems.
With 3D screenings the light level at the retina is typically 10 per cent of that for an equivalent 2D screening and received wisdom in the cinema industry is that it is this is responsible for the rapid decline in box-office appeal of 3D since the glory days of ‘Avatar’.
At the small independent cinema I help run we find that 3D screenings in general have significantly lower audience numbers than 2D screenings of the same title and this seems to be an industry-wide experience.
Until we have a cinema 3D system with brightness equivalent to that of 2D, good colour and, above all, no need for special glasses, 3D will continue to be a merely a gimmick with a new, short-lived burst of enthusiasm every 10 years or so.
David Looser MIET, by email
I don’t think Dickon Ross was perpetuating a myth about the use of red and green 3D glasses in cinemas in his editor’s letter, as Neil Dodgson suggests.
When I lived in Glasgow in the 1950s we used to go to the Rex Cinema in Dennistoun and I remember seeing ‘The House of Wax’ and a few other 3D films with them. Rubbish they were (the glasses not the films), but it was a novelty.
Mr Dodgson writes from Cambridge so perhaps cinemas in that part of the UK didn’t use the red and green glasses, but I can assure you that they did in Glasgow.
Anne P Smith (Mrs), By email
Blowing hot and cold
Having recently had my home insulation upgraded, last week I was waiting for a flight connection at Bangkok airport. Looking out through large single-glazed windows at an outside temperature of 35°C it occurred to me that there is no attempt at thermal insulation in hot countries. What is the difference between my home with 20°C inside and 5°C outside, and a building with 20°C inside and 35°C outside?
It would be interesting to see the difference in energy usage between raising the temperature by 15°C by burning gas and reducing it by 15°C using refrigeration.
DA Coleman MIET, by email
Motor efficiency measured
‘Getting More from the Motor’ (March 2015) repeats the fairly widespread claim that “there is an approximate overlap between the EFF2 and IE1, and EFF1 and IE2 levels.”
For a recent energy-efficiency audit report, I took the time to plot a set of energy efficiency curves alongside each other, with the data for each class taken from figures published by two major manufacturers. For four-pole motors, EFF1 is actually much closer to IE3 and EFF2 falls between IE1 and IE2.
Our findings on the audit were that it was uneconomical to upgrade the EFF1 motors before they reach end of life. In contrast, significant benefits were to be had from tackling poorly matched pumps and leakage from water networks.
Mr Stéphane English AIET, by email
Covert ways to boost status
By subtle means, many of us can contribute to improving the perception of professional engineers. I renewed my passport as EurIng Tierney by including my FEANI certificate with the required documentation. I also have a motorcycle registered to me with the DVLA using the same title. The process was very simple and the DVLA required no proof of title, so I will register other vehicles in the same manner.