In an unprecedented move, General Motors lent AutoGuide a Camaro ZL1 from the press fleet to race competitively against track-prepped cars with race tires. This is the story of how some good ‘ol American muscle earned more than just a podium finish; it earned respect.
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General Motors and NASA have once again joined forces, and the result is an innovation that benefits both astronauts and auto workers.
The Human Grasp Assist device – otherwise known as K-glove or Robo-Glove – will help astronauts and auto workers reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries while helping them do their jobs. The Robo-Glove is a result of GM and NASA’s Robonaut 2 (R2) project, which saw the first human-like robot launched into space in 2011.
Using leading-edge sensors, actuators and tendons comparable to the nerves, muscles and tendons in a human hand, the team of engineers, researchers and scientists were able design a robot that could operate tools designed for humans. This technology was also used when making the Robo-Glove, so the wearer can hold a grip longer and more comfortably when working with tools.
Using the finger actuation system of R2, the Robo-Glove’s actuators are embedded into the upper portion of the glove to provide grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors are incorporated into the fingertips of the glove, and they will detect when the user is grasping a tool. When the user grasps the tool, the synthetic tendons automatically retract, pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them there until the sensor is released.
The first prototype of the Robo-Glove was completed in March 2011, and a second generation design was tested three months later. There’s no word yet when we could be seeing them used in auto plants.
Watch the Robo-Glove video below.
Now that the 2003-2008 Nissan 350Z can be hand at a much more affordable price through the used car market, sports car enthusiasts nationwide are hopping behind the wheel of one for fun. Clearly the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) and Nissan North America were well aware of the abundance of 350Z enthusiasts, creating an all-new Spec Z series exclusively for those owners.
The Spec Z class will include all trim levels of the 2003-2008 model year 350Zs, which is worth noting that 370Zs with the more powerful HR motor are not invited to participate. NASA wants to keep it a level playing field, focusing on close competition, parity and cost containment in order to “showcase driving ability and car setup skills.”
The Spec Z series will have a comprehensive contingency program, awarding both Regional and National Championship competitors. Of course, Nissan Motorsports will be providing support for the entire series with cash rewards of up to $850 for the top three finishers at each regional event. Nissan Motorsports will also be providing $6,500 in cash support to the top Spec Z finishers at the 2012 NASA Championships.
Rubber of choice will come from BFGoodrich, as their tires will be the control tire for the Spec Z series. BFG will also be creating a generous contingency prize program for the series.
“We are very excited about Spec Z,” said Jeremy Croiset, NASA Sponsorship Manager. “We have been working closely with Nissan Motorsports on the creation of Spec Z, and it will be an excellent series for anyone looking to step into a spec vehicle that’s fast and relatively inexpensive to build, maintain and race. With the fantastic contingency prize programs that are being provided for Spec Z, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding spec series to race in. We look forward to watching Spec Z grow and flourish in the coming years as more racers adopt this new formula.”
If you’re a Nissan 350Z owner and interested in the rules for the new Spec Z series, please click here. NASA and Nissan did announce that additional contingency prize programs are still being finalized and will be announced shortly.
The Ford Fiesta B-Spec is intended to be Ford’s offering for the newly created B-Spec racing class, which allows racers a (relatively) affordable way to go road racing in production cars.
Based on the same Fiesta available to consumers, the B-Spec cars have their interiors gutted to make way for a rollcage, a bucket seat, race harness and ballast, designed to keep weight levels even among the various cars. Engine work is minimal and rules are still in flux, but certain vehicles will have restrictors fitted to the intake – no word yet if the Fiesta will be subject to this handicap.
Tires and suspension will also be subject to the same strict regulations, but again, rules are still being worked out. Ford is evidently behind the program in a big way, and we’re looking forward to a full field when racing gets under way in 2012.
Gallery: Ford Fiesta B-Spec
Check out more of AutoGuide’s SEMA coverage here
Kia will be joining in on the B-Spec racing series fun by offering race-prepped versions of the new 2012 Rio 5-door, joining the likes of the Mazda2 and Honda Fit. The B-Spec racing series is designed for low-budget racing enthusiasts featuring compact hatchbacks with little to no engine modifications. Kia will be working with Kinetic Motorsports to get Rio 5-Doors ready to race and is planning to announce more details at the upcoming 2011 SEMA Show.
Based on other B-Spec racing vehicles, we can safely assume that the race-prepped Rio will feature a roll cage, racing seats, harnesses, suspension modifications and a new wheel and tire package. B-Spec series racers are designed to compete in SCCA, NASA, Grand-Am and World Challenge race series. With basically stock engines in all of the vehicles, the race-ready Rio will sport the factory 1.6L that pumps out 138-hp and 123 lb-ft of torque, significantly more than either the Honda or Mazda.
Click here to read AutoGuide’s 2012 Kia Rio 5-Door review and see a preview of the 2011 SEMA Show here.
Toyota hasn’t had the best run of luck in the past little while, but the automaker may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The Japanese automaker is seeing a surge in popularity, just two days after NASA engineers cleared the company of electronic flaws in its throttle control system.
It’s been a long 10-month investigation into causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp., and the verdict is in – NASA reports that the vehicles were free of electronic problems. The culprits, they stated, were due to floormat interference and sticky gas pedals, as well as drivers mistaking the accelerator for the brake.
But not everybody is convinced with the findings. Safety advocates and plaintiff attorneys are calling the study inconclusive and plan to continue to sue Toyota over unintended acceleration. Regardless, when NASA gave Toyota the big thumbs up, the automaker saw a big lift in the public’s esteem of the brand. Once Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s announced that Toyota vehicles “are safe to drive,” the company’s popularity started to rise.
Does the NASA report make you feel any safer driving a Toyota? Are you more or less likely to buy a Toyota vehicle now that the Transportation Secretary has announced that they are safe to drive? Let us know in the comment section below.
An investigation by NASA has cleared Toyota‘s electronics systems of causing the unintended acceleration phenomenon that was widely reported in 2010.
The Department of Transportation, who oversaw the investigation, released a statement claiming “NASA engineers found no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents.”
Although the report effectively vindicates Toyota’s claims that they were not at fault, the damage to the brand has been done, and is undoubtedly severe. Toyota recalled 8 million vehicles due to the scandal and paid nearly $50 million in regulatory fines.
[Source: The Wall Street Journal]
The Honda Fit and Mazda 2 will headline a new racing class, known as B-Spec, that’s been designed as a new showroom stock racing series. The rule set is expected to be finalized within the next 60 days, and both the SCCA and NASA sanctioning bodies have expressed interested in adopting the class.
Using OEM specified wheel, tire and suspension components, the cars will have stock chassis and engines, but will be able to use weight reduction and ballasting to gain performance advantages. The Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Aveo, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris are also eligible for competition.
Some say he dated Princess Leia, that he once punched Neil Armstrong in a bar fight, and he’s deathly afraid of the Canadarm. All we know is, he’s called Robonaut 2.
This 300 lb. robot, developed by NASA and General Motors, will blast into space as part of mission STS-133 aboard the space shuttle Discovery slated for September. Robonaut 2 is merely a head, two arms, and torso — but was created as a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans. Robonaut 2 can use human tools, and in the future will be adapted to confront the harsh environment of a space walk. But where, exactly, does General Motors fit into all of this?
GM says its manufacturing engineering team is already working to identify potential applications for R2’s array of vision, motion and sensor technologies that will assist workers in manufacturing operations.
“Our strategy is to develop technologies that can fundamentally change the way we manufacture cars and trucks”, said Kenneth D. Knight, executive director GM Manufacturing Assembly & Automation Center. ”This includes a focus on developing ways to further support our operators.”
We have a better idea: create a second Robonaut 2 and send it to the moon, along with another lunar rover. General Motors helped NASA make the first rover, and we think a 24/7 “Lunar Race Network” would be the perfect antidote to ever-so-boring home decorating shows.