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MIT
MIT

This New Material Stores Heat for Later Use

MIT
MIT

Researchers at MIT have developed a new type of transparent polymer film that’s capable of storing solar heat and saving it for later use. While conventional solar cells harvest energy from the Sun and store it in the form of electricity, this unique new material can hold on to the Sun’s energy indefinitely in a chemical state, the researchers claim. When it’s ready to be used, that energy can be activated through a controlled blast of heat, light, or electricity. 

The film is so ultra-thin that it could have applications in a wide range of products, they say, including being woven into fabric to create sweaters that warm up on command or sandwiched between two sheets of glass to make a windshield that heats up automatically in icy weather. While many rear car windows come equipped with heating wires for this purpose, they’re not placed in front windows in order to keep the driver’s view clear. With MIT’s new film, all it would take is a small pulse of electricity for a surface to heat up as much as 50°F, they say.   

The material could also have revolutionary applications when it comes to energy efficiency. In cold temperatures, electric cars devote a large chunk of energy to heating and de-icing, reducing their driving ranges by as much as 30 percent. By storing extra heat in a chemical state, the car's battery would be free to use its energy for other purposes.

The researchers are currently in the process of fine-tuning their product. Before it’s released commercially, they hope to eliminate the material's slight yellow tinge and make it completely transparent. They also hope to raise its heating potential from 50°F to 68°F.

Why the mentions of its potential use in cars? Perhaps because BMW was one sponsor of the project. So don’t be surprised if the technology turns up in their vehicles sometime in the future. You can find the team's full findings in the journal Advanced Energy Materials. 

[h/t: Fast Company]

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Amazon Will Now Deliver Packages to Your Car Trunk
Amazon
Amazon

Delivery drivers call them “porch pirates.” It’s a derisive term for people who take advantage of the fact that many residents aren’t home during the day and swipe packages from doorsteps. Bad weather, nosy neighbors, or general privacy concerns may be other reasons you’re not comfortable leaving shipments unattended. Now, Amazon has a solution: Today, the company is introducing Amazon Key In-Car Delivery, a new method for dropping off packages that virtually guarantees they’ll be in one piece when you get home.

When shoppers opt for Amazon Key at checkout and own a vehicle that supports app-based unlocking, the delivery driver will be able to pop open your trunk and deposit your items inside. Essentially, your car doubles as a storage locker.

Your car may be sitting in your office parking lot during the day, but that’s no problem. Drivers will be able to pull up to your car there and make the same drop-off. When you’re done with work for the day, your packages will be waiting. Your car can be parked anywhere within a two-block radius of the delivery address and still be eligible for the service.

But how would a driver find it? The In-Car Delivery program requires a few things in order to work. For one, you need Amazon’s Key app; you also need to give the company permission to lock and unlock your vehicle. Your car must support app-based access, like 2015 or newer GM cars with OnStar subscriptions or recent-model Volvos with a Volvo On Call account. These vehicles have partnership agreements with Amazon that make them compatible with the Key software, as well as GPS functioning that allows drivers to find them when parked offsite. You’ll also need to be in one of 37 markets where Amazon dispatches their own delivery staff.

If this delivery approach is embraced, it’s likely that other carmakers will help Amazon widen their distribution platform. Amazon Key also offers in-home delivery service in select cities, which allows drivers entry into your home to leave packages inside.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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iPhone’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ Feature Is Actually Reducing Distracted Driving (a Little)
iStock
iStock

While it’s oh-so-tempting to quickly check a text or look at Google Maps while driving, heeding the siren call of the smartphone is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel. Distracted driving led to almost 3500 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and even more non-fatal accidents. In the summer of 2017, Apple took steps to combat the rampant problem by including a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” setting as part of its iOS 11 upgrade. And the data shows that it’s working, as Business Insider and 9to5Mac report.

The Do Not Disturb While Driving feature allows your iPhone to sense when you’re in a moving car, and mutes all incoming calls, texts, and other notifications to keep you from being distracted by your phone. A recent survey from the insurance comparison website EverQuote found that the setting works as intended; people who kept the setting enabled did, in fact, use their phones less.

The study analyzed driver behavior recorded by EverDrive, EverQuote’s app designed to help users track and improve their safety while driving. The report found that 70 percent of EverDrive users kept the Do Not Disturb setting on rather than disabling it. Those drivers who kept the setting enabled used their phone 8 percent less.

The survey examined the behavior of 500,000 EverDrive users between September 19, 2017—just after Apple debuted the feature to the public—and October 25, 2017. The sample size is arguably small, and the study could have benefited from a much longer period of analysis. Even if people are looking at their phones just a little less in the car, though, that’s a win. Looking away from the road for just a split second to glance at an incoming notification can have pretty dire consequences if you’re cruising along at 65 mph.

When safety is baked into the design of technology, people are more likely to follow the rules. Plenty of people might not care enough to enable the Do Not Disturb feature themselves, but if it’s automatically enabled, plenty of people won’t go through the work to opt out.

[h/t 9to5Mac]

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