The Administration's Office of Advanced Automotive Technologies (OAAT) lacks a clear idea of what it is doing. That is the tenor of a report by a committee of experts formed by the National Research Council. OAAT is supposed to coordinate and encourage R&D of energy-efficient automotive technologies. The report, however, says OAAT's plans for R&D do not mesh smoothly with those of two related programs--the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, and the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium. In some instances, the committee says, OAAT's plan simply states that a barrier will be overcome. "The committee was concerned that some of these statements relate to technology areas where necessary breakthroughs have not materialized despite significant R&D efforts over a period of many years," the report adds. It cites as examples batteries, gas turbines, and ceramic materials for gas turbines. The committee recommends that OAAT, in addition to defining technical goals more clearly, pay more attention to cost reductions.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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