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Calculate Your Car's Carbon Footprint

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Calculating your car’s carbon footprint just got a lot easier, thanks to a new interactive tool created by MIT researchers. As The New York Times reports, CarbonCounter uses new data to determine how 125 car types currently for sale in the U.S. impact the environment.

CarbonCounter's calculations are based on findings from a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Meeting global climate change mitigation goals will require drivers to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, so researchers wanted to find out which cars will help us achieve that goal. The study looked at the carbon intensities (a.k.a. carbon emissions per mile) of each vehicle; and to see if green living is really that expensive, it also calculated how much the cars cost to own and operate based on vehicle, fuel, and maintenance costs per mile.

Want to find out how harmful your ride is for the environment, and how much an environmentally-friendly vehicle will set you back financially? Go to CarbonCounter’s website and enter your vehicle model and location (the carbon intensity of the electricity supply is higher in some places than others, Vox explains). The results will pop up in the grid in front of you. You can also see how your vehicle stacks up against U.S. emission-reduction targets for 2030, 2040, and 2050 (the end goal being to limit mean global temperature rise to 2°C above preindustrial levels).

Here are a few main takeaways: Hybrid and battery vehicles may have a high initial sticker price, but they actually save you money in the long run because they cost less to fuel up and maintain. (Not surprisingly, most of these “clean” cars also meet the emission-reduction target for 2030.) Meanwhile, no cars with internal combustion engines meet the 2030 standard, and the average carbon intensity of vehicles sold in 2014 exceeds the climate target for 2030 by more than 50 percent. Clearly, auto manufacturers (and policymakers) have their work cut out for them.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Wisconsin Considers Building a Highway Lane for Self-Driving Cars
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Self-driving cars are already a reality, as companies like Google and Tesla have demonstrated. But the logistics of getting them on the roads with human-operated cars have slowed down their long-anticipated takeover. In Wisconsin, highway planners are looking into one way to accommodate autonomous vehicles when they arrive. Dedicated lanes for driverless cars are being considered for I-94, USA Today’s Journal Sentinel reports.

The project is supported by Foxconn, the Taiwanese tech supplier building a new facility 20 miles outside of downtown Milwaukee. Once the site is complete, it will cover 20 million square feet and employ up to 13,000 people. According to the company, setting aside space for self-driving vehicles could ease traffic congestion, both from new workers and cargo trucks, after the factory opens.

Officials were already planning to expand I-94 from six lanes to eight to accommodate the eventual increase in traffic, but Foxconn says that may not be enough. “We’re thinking about two years down the road; they’re thinking 20 years down the road,” Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

While Sheehy said the autonomous car lane proposal is “on the table,” he didn’t make any promises regarding the plan’s future. Wisconsin isn’t the only state looking ahead to new developments in road travel: In October, tech investors pitched an idea to Washington state officials to convert Interstate 5 into a corridor for autonomous vehicles between Seattle and Vancouver.

[h/t Journal Sentinel]

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Ford Tests Exoskeletons That Make Overhead Tasks Easier for Workers
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Ford

Engineers have already developed exoskeletons capable of supporting elderly people and helping paralyzed people walk. But the technology offers benefits to able-bodied wearers as well. That's what employees are learning at Ford's U.S. factories. As Road Show reports, workers there are suiting up in upper body exoskeletons designed to alleviate fatigue and decrease their chance of injury.

Assembling car parts requires workers to reach their arms above their heads thousands of times a day. While most healthy individuals would have no problem doing this type of work for a few minutes at a time, the rate at which these employees are completing the tasks puts an enormous strain on their bodies. This can lead to back and shoulder fatigue, soreness, and even injury.

In an effort to make their workforce more comfortable and productive, Ford has been testing the EksoVest from Ekso Bionics in two of its American auto plants. The non-powered suits fit people between 5 feet and 6 feet 4 inches tall. The lightweight design provides up to 15 pounds of support to each arm without weighing wearers down or restricting their movements. According to Ford, the pilot program has contributed to an 83 percent drop in the number of incidents that led to time off between 2005 and 2016. And on top of staying healthy enough to go to work, employees have reported feeling more energized during their off hours.

The EksoVest has already helped workers launch several new vehicles, including the 2018 Ford Mustang and the 2018 Lincoln Navigator. Following the trial program's success, the automobile company next plans to test the technology in factories in Europe and South America.

[h/t Road Show]

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