Budweiser gives “One for the road” a new meaning


Technology is an amazing thing. There have been advances that allow us to now do things that were unimaginable 25 years ago. We store our photos and important documents in a place called the Cloud, which many people think is a real place in the sky. Our phone calls and communications are now sent over an invisible wireless system that years ago would have been the stuff of science fiction.

If you think that you’ve seen it all, then you’re in for another technology first- the self driving beer truck. Now I know that for a lot of people this would be a perfect match but if you’re picturing yourself going along in your pickup, sipping on a cold one with no risk of a DUI, I hate to ruin the dream.

The reality is that Anheuser-Busch joined with Uber’s new freight division and the transportation company, Otto, to test a new retro-fit technology that turns a regular semi truck into a self-driving vehicle. The mission was to drive 51,744 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins, through downtown Denver, to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Cameras, radar and sensors were mounted on the truck to “see” the road. The Otto technology system controlled the acceleration, braking, and steering of the truck from exit-to-exit without any human intervention. For safety’s sake, a driver was in the truck during the 120 mile drive but monitored the trip from the sleeper compartment in the back.

With this successful test of the self-driving technology, Otto feels that this will be the beginning of a safer and less tiring way for truck drivers to travel. It is their belief that this can help reduce collisions, incidents of aggressive driving and improve fuel efficiency. While this will give drivers a break on interstate runs, they will still need to drive in congested areas.

To mark the occasion, Anheuser-Busch created a special set of Budweiser cans with the Otto logo above the slogan, “First Delivery by Self-Driving Truck”. Brendan Spaar wonders how soon it will be before these show up on eBay.

A new weapon in the war on texting while driving- The Textalyzer!

We’ve all seen the public service messages about the dangers of texting and driving. Statistics show that distracted drivers are the cause of an alarming amount of crashes each year. In most states it is equal to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Still, despite the warnings, people continue to use their phones to text while driving.

This might be changing if technology being proposed for testing in New York is successful. Two lawmakers, New York Senator Terrence Murphy and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz, have joined with the advocacy group, Distracted Operators Risk Casualties, to draft legislation that would allow authorities to examine phones at accident sites to determine if a driver involved in a crash was texting while driving.

Ben Lieberman, co-founder of DORC, has a personal interest in eliminating driver distractions. In 2011, his son, Evan, was killed by a distracted driver in New York. There is strong evidence that shows the growing danger that texting while driving poses. The National Safety Council reports that nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. A survey conducted by the Department of Transportation found that 1/3 of drivers surveyed admitted to texting while driving.

Police may soon have a weapon to help them determine if a driver has been texting while behind the wheel. An Israeli technology company, Cellebrite, has been working to develop a technology that will help police tell if your device has been used for texting. If the company name sounds familiar it’s because this company was the one that is rumored to have helped the FBI crack the iPhone encryption on the San Bernardino terrorist’s phone. It is reported that the company is developing technology that will allow police the ability to examine the use of your phone while still keeping your content such as conversations, contacts, photos, private.

Texting while driving is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. Is this technology the answer? Brendan Spaar wonders if it is being reactive more than proactive. In 2014, Samsung developed an app called Eyes On the Road that was tested in Singapore. The app used your phone’s sensor fusion technology and GSM cell towers to measure your speed to determine if you’re driving. If you are, it hides phone calls, SMS text messages, and social media alerts until you reach your destination. There are other apps available that will allow you to drive safely without being distracted by texts or other alerts. This seems to be a possible solution that will help prevent possible distractions before damage is done. Another incentive might be joining with auto insurers to offer discounts to encourage drivers to be text free while driving.

So before you get behind the wheel, remember- texting while driving can send you a message you can’t ignore. Don’t let your last words be the ones you regret the most.

If your car note isn’t paid, you might be walking.

Having a car is a necessity in most places. It’s a big financial investment as well. Car note, gas, insurance, and maintenance can really bust your budget if you’re not careful. Brendan Spaar is glad his car is paid off. For people that aren’t so lucky, they need to be sure to keep that car note paid or their wheels may not roll.

We’ve all seen those car ads that say, “No credit, no problem”. If you’re one of the people with bad or high risk credit, before they can drive off the lot, many subprime borrowers must have their car outfitted with a starter interrupt device, which allows lenders to remotely disable the ignition. Using the GPS technology on the devices, the lenders can also track the cars’ location and movements.

The  starter interrupt devices have been installed in about two million vehicles. By simply clicking a mouse or using a smartphone, lenders have the ultimate control. Borrowers must stay current with their payments, or lose access to their vehicle. The Repo Man has been replaced by technology.

Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. Others said their cars were shut down while waiting at stoplights. One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway.

Not only can the device disable a vehicle, the devices have tracking capabilities that allow lenders and others to know the movements of borrowers.  This is a major concern for privacy advocates. Plus the the devices have a warning system that beeps, becoming more persistent as the due date for the loan payment approaches. Now you’ll have to figure out if the beep you hear means low fuel, seat belt not on, or the car note is due.

Your toilet flushes but can it Tweet?


Getting laid off from a tech job, or any job, is hard to deal with. You have to try to find a new job and also keep busy waiting to get that all important interview. Sometimes you’ll do just about anything to keep busy. Brendan Spaar thinks this guy has come up with a most creative way to keep himself busy and show off his skills at the same time.

Thomas Ruecker was recently laid off from his technology job in Finland. He responded to a tweet for help from a former co-worker wanting info on “smart” toilets and sinks that measure the water usage and other usage info. Being a guy that loves a challenge and using his background in electrical engineering and technology, Ruecker got to work trying make something that would do the job.

Using  miscellaneous parts he salvaged from other things, he did a Macgyver and came up with a device that tracks water usage as well as tweets with each flush. This device is a creative technical effort using a servo motor , a resistor used to control a device, and  a plastic arm using zip tie cut to length. Styrofoam acts as the float in the tank. A BeagleBone Black, an open-source board with an ARM-based processor running Linux, was another component. He wrote the code for the device, and enabled it to use IPv6 and MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport).

This isn’t the only innovative idea to keep him busy. He has plans to build moisture and temperature sensors to monitor his chili plants, and is working on connecting other things in his home, including his coffee maker. Who needs a Smart House that can be an expensive thing to have? All you really need is the time and ability to think outside the box. Brendan Spaar hopes Reucker will find a new job soon. The ability to be creative and use technology in new ways is something that an employer should find invaluable.