Autonomous fleets will make Uber and Lyft cheaper than owning a car by 2027

Tristan Greene:

By the numbers: It might be hard to wrap your head around it, but the math adds up. Based on current trends, Quote Wizards predicts that the cost of operating a sedan in 2027 will be $7,598 versus $8,469 last year. But, the study claims the cost of using a ride-share app exclusively for transportation will drop from nearly $14,000 a year now to less than 7K in Seattle and under 6K in Denver.

There are, of course, a number of things still standing in the way of the autonomous car takeover. But if the potential for saving millions of human lives doesn’t convince the world to hand their keys to a responsible robot, maybe a financial appeal will do the trick.

Ford Retreats From American Car Business in Penny-Pinching Push

Keith Naughton:

Ford Motor Co. is cleaving an additional $11.5 billion from spending plans and dropping several sedans, including the Fusion and Taurus, from its lineup to more quickly reach an elusive profit target.

The automaker is almost doubling a cost-cutting goal to $25.5 billion by 2022, Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told reporters Wednesday. By not investing in next generations of any car for North America except the Mustang, the company now anticipates it’ll reach an 8 percent profit margin by 2020, two years ahead of schedule.

Ford is trying to kick-start a turnaround that’s yet to take hold almost a year after the board ousted its chief executive officer. Getting rid of slow-selling, low-margin car models and refocusing the company around more lucrative trucks and SUVs is a crucial element of new CEO Jim Hackett’s rebound bid. By 2020, almost 90 percent of Ford’s North American portfolio will be pickups or sport utility and commercial vehicles.

“We’re going to feed the healthy part of our business and deal decisively with areas that destroy value,” Hackett said on an earnings call Wednesday. “We aren’t just exploring partnerships; we’ve now done them. We aren’t just talking about ideas; we’ve made decisions.”

Hackett, 63, is choosing a route similar to the one Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV used to pass Ford in North American profitability. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne killed off the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans and retooled the factories that had been making them to build Jeep SUVs and Ram pickups instead. Marchionne now wants to eclipse General Motors Co.’s margins in North America before his retirement in 2019.

Two new Detroit-based startups are launching car subscription services

Dustin Walsh:

They’ll be competing with automakers, most of them luxury brands, that already offer their own subscriptions
Business model will build partnerships rather than compete with dealers
Two Detroit startups are taking the traditional car ownership model and flipping it on its hood.

Startups Condor Mobility LLC, operating as Condor Detroit, and Mobiliti LLC are launching vehicle subscription programs that promise a speedier, more flexible experience for their members, who pay a flat monthly fee — insurance and maintenance included — to drive a new or used car whenever they want, for as long as they want.

It’s not a new idea. Seven automakers, mostly luxury brands, have launched their own vehicle subscription programs, which have cropped up in most major cities and favor function over formality.

But Condor and Mobiliti plan to use the auto dealer network to their advantage to take on their automaker rivals in the still-unproven market.

Condor launched its vehicle subscription service in Southeast Michigan in December, while Mobiliti will launch its services in Austin, Texas, on May 1.

Both startups target younger drivers looking to sidestep the traditional buying or leasing process and offer bundled payment options to customers looking for a more tailored, hassle-free process.

China’s Car Revolution Is Going Global

Bloomberg:

On a bright spring day in Amsterdam, car buffs stepped inside a blacked-out warehouse to nibble on lamb skewers and sip rhubarb cocktails courtesy of Lynk & Co., which was showing off its new hybrid SUV.
 
 What seemed like just another launch of a new vehicle was actually something more: the coming-out party for China’s globally ambitious auto industry. For the first time, a Chinese-branded car will be made in Western Europe for sale there, with the ultimate goal of landing in U.S. showrooms.

Experts say Tesla has repeated car industry mistakes from the 1980s

Timothy Lee:

Production had been halted for much of last week in Tesla’s car factory in Fremont, California, and its battery factory near Clark, Nevada. In a Tuesday note to employees, CEO Elon Musk said that the pause was necessary to lay the groundwork for higher production levels in the coming weeks. Musk said he wants all parts of the company ready to prepare 6,000 Model 3 cars per week by the end of June, triple the rate Tesla has achieved in the recent weeks.

The announcement caps a nine-month period of turmoil that Musk has described as “production hell” as Tesla has struggled to ramp up production of the Model 3.

Tesla had high hopes for its Model 3 production efforts. In 2016, Musk hired Audi executive Peter Hochholdinger to plan the manufacturing process, and Business Insider described his plans in late 2016: “Hochholdinger’s view is that robots could be a much bigger factor in auto production than they are currently, largely because many components are designed to be assembled by humans, not machines.”

A year later, Musk himself was touting Tesla’s advanced robotics expertise. “We are pushing robots to the limit in terms of the speed that they can operate at, and asking our suppliers to make robots go way faster, and they are shocked because nobody has ever asked them that question,” Musk said on a conference call last November. “It’s like if you can see the robot move, it’s too slow.”

Style Is an Algorithm No one is original anymore, not even you.

Kyle Chayka:

The camera is a small, white, curvilinear monolith on a pedestal. Inside its smooth casing are a microphone, a speaker, and an eye-like lens. After I set it up on a shelf, it tells me to look straight at it and to be sure to smile! The light blinks and then the camera flashes. A head-to-toe picture appears on my phone of a view I’m only used to seeing in large mirrors: me, standing awkwardly in my apartment, wearing a very average weekday outfit. The background is blurred like evidence from a crime scene. It is not a flattering image.
 
 Amazon’s Echo Look, currently available by invitation only but also on eBay, allows you to take hands-free selfies and evaluate your fashion choices. “Now Alexa helps you look your best,” the product description promises. Stand in front of the camera, take photos of two different outfits with the Echo Look, and then select the best ones on your phone’s Echo Look app. Within about a minute, Alexa will tell you which set of clothes looks better, processed by style-analyzing algorithms and some assistance from humans. So I try to find my most stylish outfit, swapping out shirts and pants and then posing stiffly for the camera. I shout, “Alexa, judge me!” but apparently that’s unnecessary.
 
 What I discover from the Style Check™ function is as follows: All-black is better than all-gray. Rolled-up sleeves are better than buttoned at the wrist. Blue jeans are best. Popping your collar is actually good. Each outfit in the comparison receives a percentage out of 100: black clothes score 73 percent against gray clothes at 27 percent, for example. But the explanations given for the scores are indecipherable. “The way you styled those pieces looks better,” the app tells me. “Sizing is better.” How did I style them? Should they be bigger or smaller?

Hard Questions: What Data Does Facebook Collect When I’m Not Using Facebook, and Why?

David Baser:

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress. He answered more than 500 questions and promised that we would get back on the 40 or so questions he couldn’t answer at the time. We’re following up with Congress on these directly but we also wanted to take the opportunity to explain more about the information we get from other websites and apps, how we use the data they send to us, and the controls you have. I lead a team focused on privacy and data use, including GDPR compliance and the tools people can use to control and download their information.
 
 When does Facebook get data about people from other websites and apps?
 Many websites and apps use Facebook services to make their content and ads more engaging and relevant. These services include:
 
 Social plugins, such as our Like and Share buttons, which make other sites more social and help you share content on Facebook;
 
 Facebook Login, which lets you use your Facebook account to log into another website or app;
 
 Facebook Analytics, which helps websites and apps better understand how people use their services; and
 
 Facebook ads and measurement tools, which enable websites and apps to show ads from Facebook advertisers, to run their own ads on Facebook or elsewhere, and to understand the effectiveness of their ads.
 
 When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook.

Retail’s New Fork In The Road: Understanding Buying Versus Shopping

Steve Dennis:

More recently, platform businesses like Alibaba and Amazon have made the buying process far more efficient in many categories, leading to major market share gains and the demise (or teetering on the brink) of many brands that could not keep pace. But let’s be clear: Amazon is not “the everything store.” It is, however, quickly becoming the anything you want to ‘buy’ store. Absent a far greater brick & mortar presence, Amazon will continue to struggle in its quest to dominate shopping.
 
 Innovation and growth in ‘buying’ has occurred outside of the purely digital world. Brands such as Aldi, Lidl, Dollar General, Ross, TJX and others have re-worked and expanded their business model by delivering ever greater ‘buying’ value. If there is a retail apocalypse someone needs to tell these brands, as they will collectively add thousands of new stores this year alone.
 
 The same is true in the ‘shopping’ world. Sephora, Ulta, Apple and many others that continue to offer a remarkable shopping experience are growing both online and offline. Moreover, many high profile pure-play e-commerce players have basically started to run out of customers that would approach their brands in ‘buying’ mode and thus they needed to go seek out ‘shoppers’ with brick & mortar locations In fact, several once stated that they would never open stores. This is because they didn’t understand how the buying vs. shopping dynamic would inevitably play out over time. It now turns out that Warby Parker, Peloton and Bonobos are seeing the majority of their incremental growth come from their physical locations.

World’s first electrified road for charging vehicles opens in Sweden

Daniel Boffey:

The world’s first electrified road that recharges the batteries of cars and trucks driving on it has been opened in Sweden.
 
 About 2km (1.2 miles) of electric rail has been embedded in a public road near Stockholm, but the government’s roads agency has already drafted a national map for future expansion.
 
 Sweden’s target of achieving independence from fossil fuel by 2030 requires a 70% reduction in the transport sector.
 
 The technology behind the electrification of the road linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a logistics site outside the capital city aims to solve the thorny problems of keeping electric vehicles charged, and the manufacture of their batteries affordable.

Flying-car venture Terrafugia expands workforceFlying-car venture Terrafugia expands workforce

aopa:

The acquisition of Terrafugia last fall by privately held Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a Fortune 500 company with assets “that span the automotive chain,” provided Terrafugia with resources for the expansion, Woburn, Massachusetts-based Terrafugia said in an April 10 news release.

“Technology and innovation are at the core of Terrafugia, drawing in unique talent across departments. The recent jump in staff shows our commitment to breaking ground in the emerging flying car market,” said CEO Chris Jaran, noting that a year ago, Terrafugia had fewer than 20 employees.

Japan to place accident liability on self-driving car owners

Nikkei:

As with regular vehicles, owners will generally be liable for accidents that occur while their cars operate autonomously and will be covered by government-mandated automobile insurance. Automakers will only be responsible if there is a clear flaw in the vehicle’s system. Insurers are also expected to develop optional plans now that compulsory coverage requirements are settled.
 
 To help clarify the cause of accidents, self-driving cars will be required to have devices that record such information as location, steering and the operational status of autonomous driving systems.

Reputation inflation explains why Uber’s five-star driver ratings system became useless

Alison Griswold:

How did Uber’s ratings become more inflated than grades at Harvard? That’s the topic of a new paper, “Reputation Inflation,” from NYU’s John Horton and Apostolos Filippas, and Collage.com CEO Joseph Golden. The paper argues that online platforms, especially peer-to-peer ones like Uber and Airbnb, are highly susceptible to ratings inflation because, well, it’s uncomfortable for one person to leave another a bad review.
 
 The somewhat more technical way to say this is that there’s a “cost” to leaving negative feedback. That cost can take different forms: It might be that the reviewer fears retaliation, or that he feels guilty doing something that might harm the underperforming worker. If this “cost” increases over time—i.e., the fear or guilt associated with leaving a bad review increases—then the platform is likely to experience ratings inflation.
 
 The paper focuses on an unnamed gig economy platform where people (“employers”) can hire other people (“workers”) to do specific tasks. After a job is completed, employers can leave two different kinds of feedback: “public” feedback that the worker sees, and “private” reviews and ratings that aren’t shown to the worker or other people on the platform. Over the history of the platform, 82% of people have chosen to leave reviews, including a numerical rating on a scale from one to five stars.

New mobility trends: China leads the way

Roland Berger:

The global automotive industry is gradually shifting from a manufacturing focus to a more customer-oriented services approach. China is not only leading in new mobility options but has probably moved the furthest in phasing out traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) ownership. Motivated by serious pollution issues, the Chinese government has set aggressive targets on xEV, and more generally on what it calls “New Energy Vehicles” (NEV), with further supportive policies expected. This – combined with the fact that owning a car was never as common as in Western countries – has turned China into an exciting playing field for new mobility solutions, whether from pure players (such as Didi) or traditional OEMs.

Subprime New-Car Buyers Suddenly Go Missing From U.S. Showrooms

John Lippert and Jamie Butters:

The American consumers who were stretching themselves to buy or lease a new car are starting to go missing from showrooms.

Rising interest rates and new-vehicle prices are squeezing shoppers with shaky credit and tight budgets out of the market. In the first two months of this year, sales were flat among the highest-rated borrowers, while deliveries to those with subprime scores slumped 9 percent, according to J.D. Power.

The researcher’s data highlights what’s happening beneath the surface of a U.S. auto market in its second year of decline after a historic run of gains. Automakers probably will report sales in March slowed to the most sluggish pace since Hurricane Harvey ravaged dealerships across the Texas Gulf Coast in August, according to Bloomberg’s survey of analyst estimates.

Fueling the future

Iwan Rhys Morus:

In his short story ‘Let There Be Light’, the science-fiction author Robert A Heinlein introduced the energy source that would power his Future History series of stories and novels. First published in Super Science Stories magazine in May 1940, it described the Douglas-Martin sunpower screens that would provide (almost) free and inexhaustible energy to fuel the future in subsequent instalments of his alternative timeline. It was simple, robust and reliable technology. ‘We can bank ’em in series to get any required voltage; we can bank in parallel to get any required current, and the power is absolutely free, except for the installation costs,’ marvelled one of the inventors as they worked out the new technology’s potential for rupturing the social order of the future.

How Volkswagen Walked Away From a Near-Fatal Crash

Matthew Campbell, Christoph Rauwald and Chris Reiter:

As the world’s largest automaker, Volkswagen in some ways better resembles an army or a country than a mere corporation. Its flagship factory in Wolfsburg, Germany—a city built from scratch by the Nazis for the express purpose of manufacturing vast numbers of automobiles—spreads over an expanse the size of Monaco and produces more than 3,000 vehicles every day. It is electrified by not one but two Volkswagen coal plants. It is fed by a 3,400-person Volkswagen catering brigade and a sausage-making operation so comprehensive it sells to supermarkets. Here and at more than 100 other factories worldwide, the company’s 12 brands make 355 models in millions of color and trim combinations, employing more than 600,000 people who generate $284 billion in annual revenue.

It’s hard to imagine that such a robust corporate edifice could ever be at risk of collapse, as it was less than three years ago, when Volkswagen AG was consumed by one of the largest scandals in automotive history. The revelation of a systematic effort to cheat on emissions tests—employees wrote software that made diesel cars appear cleaner than they were—brought the company to its knees, ended the career of its long-standing chief executive officer, and shattered a 70-year reputation for engineering-led competence. For a time it looked like Volkswagen might not survive, at least not recognizably, a prospect so alarming in Germany that Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in to do damage control for what is arguably the country’s most important industrial giant

Steps to autonomy

Benedict Evans:

The standard way to talk about autonomous cars, shown in this diagram, is to talk about levels. L1 is the cruise control in your father’s car. L2 adds some sensors, so it will try to slow down if the car in front does, and stay within the lane markings, but you still need to have your hands on or near the wheel. L3 will drive for you but you need to be ready to take over, Level 4 will drive for you in some situations but not others, and Level 5 doesn’t need a human driver ‘ever’ and doesn’t have a steering wheel.

China’s battery king poised to overtake Panasonic-Tesla alliance

Ryosuke Eguchi:

Much of the success of the electric vehicle will come down to the performance and price of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the costliest and heaviest component of the car.

Just seven years since its founding, one Chinese company has emerged as a rising star in the battery industry, backed by strong support from Beijing.

Fujian-based CATL was the center of attention at “Battery Japan,” a trade show held in Tokyo in March. Liang Chengdou, head of CATL’s research center, spoke with confidence. “Batteries produced by CATL for EVs will become as competitive as internal-combustion engines through technological innovation,” he promised.

For Tesla, Cars + Cash + Credit + Convertibles = Crunch Time

Liam Denning:

Opinions differ on the exact nature of Tesla, ranging from struggling car manufacturer to tech pioneer to something akin to the second coming. Regardless, it is undoubtedly one thing: a money machine.

I don’t mean that in the sense of Tesla making a lot of money; more that it is a machine for the raising and consumption of money.

All companies are this to one degree or another, of course; it’s just that Tesla Inc. is more at the “another” end of things. Reliably negative on free cash flow, Tesla depends on a smorgasbord of external funding, from equity raising to vehicle deposits to high-yield bonds to securitized leases to negative working capital. And that smorgasbord rests, of course, on Tesla’s famously gravity-defying stock price and faith in CEO Elon Musk.

Which is why these four charts deserve more than a glance from even the most ardent Muskovite:

a candidate for urban and suburban mobility

Steve Crandall:

I have a serious interest in how we get around. Currently the tech press seems entirely focused on car sharing and self-driving cars as THE FUTURE, but those approaches are problematic. I’ve spent a fair amount of time highlighting those issues, but rather than drone on for pages and pages I’ll recommend a new book from a friend – Elements of Access by David Levinson .. essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of cities and suburban areas. It’s non-technically, fascinating and humorous. From the about:

Bike-sharing boom in Japan a prelude to online payment war?

Kzuyuki Okudaira:

Bike-sharing via smartphone apps is on a roll in Japan, with flea market app Mercari, messaging app Line and Yahoo Japan having entered the market in the last six months.
 
 So why are online technology companies so keen on bike-sharing?
 
 Analysis suggests that it is a prelude to a “payment war” like the one that took place in China, where bike-sharing was used as a marketing tool by internet companies to boost online payment services.
 
 Mercari launched a bike-sharing service on Feb. 27, choosing Fukuoka in southern Japan as its pilot city. It set up 22 “ports,” or bases, where customers rent and return bikes.
 
 Currently, 120 bikes are available, with the company planning to increase ports to 50 and bikes to 400 by the end of March. By the end of summer, the company hopes to have a fleet of 2,000 bikes.
 
 

Can you 3D-print a car? This company will mass print cars by 2019 for US$10,000 each

Daniel Ren:

A prototype of the car, the LSEV, is currently on display at Shanghai’s China 3D-printing Culture Museum, before being exhibited at Auto China 2018 in Beijing next month.
 
 The company claims it is the world’s first mass-produced 3D-printed electric vehicle, and that it has received 7,000 orders from companies including postal service providers.
 
 Nearly all its visible parts are 3D-printed except for its windows, tyres and chassis.
 
 3D printing is a manufacturing process where materials are joined or solidified under computer control to create three-dimensional objects.
 
 Technically, the manufacturing process often shortens research and development time and can offer customers tailor-made products.

Why self-driving cars will cause sprawl (according to an Italian Physicist)

Phil Levin:

The average person still spends one hour commuting in a car in major cities. Good on you, Prof. Marchetti.

2. Are cities ~25 miles in diameter (8 times larger than Old Venice)?

Here’s where Marchetti needs some updating.

US cities seem to be significantly larger than Marchetti’s Wall would imply.

Tesla Is Facing a Crucible

Eric Newcomer:

Jim Chanos, the short seller famous for betting against Enron, has said he thinks Tesla Inc.’s stock is “worthless.” Chanos got some new evidence this week that may support his short sales against Elon Musk’s car company. A string of executives have headed for the exits, including a surprising number from the company’s finance team, as Tesla is dogged by questions about whether it can meet its production targets.

The chief financial officer left abruptly last year in a curious turn of events, where he was replaced by his predecessor: Deepak Ahuja served as Tesla’s CFO from 2008 to 2015 and then took over the job again in March 2017, according to his LinkedIn. Then late last year, one of Tesla’s audit committee members, Steve Jurvetson, went on leave from the board (following accusations of misconduct, which he has denied). The vice president of business development and director of battery technology both left in the past year. Jon McNeill, one of Tesla’s most senior executives, went to take the chief operating officer job at Lyft Inc. last month. Eric Branderiz, Tesla’s chief accounting officer, departed last week. And Bloomberg reported this week that Susan Repo, the corporate treasurer and vice president of finance, is out.

Carmakers take electric fight to the factory floor

Patrick McGee:

The success of German manufacturers, whose volumes more than trebled from 4m units in 1990 to 15m last year, was largely based on “platform sharing” that let multiple models use the same design underpinnings. VW Group, the world’s largest carmaker, uses common building blocks under “the Lego principle” to share engines, transmissions and components across its 12 brands.

These progressive changes were all based on superior methods of producing cars, forcing rivals to adapt or die. “Efficiency was always the cornerstone of success in the automotive industry,” says Oliver Zipse, head of production at BMW. “As soon as you were not able to produce in a particular cost frame, you were out of the market.”

Carmakers are today investing in production plants that integrate reams of data with processes across the supply chain. Assembly times are being accelerated and downtime is being cut by fixing problems before they occur.

“The whole system is becoming enormously complex all of a sudden,” Mr Zipse says. He refers to the need for carmakers to incorporate new drive trains and autonomous technology, while keeping the speed of production cycle at just 60 seconds. “If you’re not able to [keep] this complex system working 100 per cent faultless, you will never do 60 second [manufacturing] cycles, and if you’re not doing 60 second cycles, you’ll never build 300,000 cars.”

Who maps the world?

Sarah Holder:

“For most of human history, maps have been very exclusive,” said Marie Price, the first woman president of the American Geographical Society, appointed 165 years into its 167-year history. “Only a few people got to make maps, and they were carefully guarded, and they were not participatory.” That’s slowly changing, she said, thanks to democratizing projects like OpenStreetMap (OSM).
 
 OSM is the self-proclaimed Wikipedia of maps: It’s a free and open-source sketch of the globe, created by a volunteer pool that essentially crowd-sources the map, tracing parts of the world that haven’t yet been logged. Armed with satellite images, GPS coordinates, local community insights and map “tasks,” volunteer cartographers identify roads, paths, and buildings in remote areas and their own backyards. Then, experienced editors verify each element. Chances are, you use an OSM-sourced map every day without realizing it: Foursquare, Craigslist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Uber all use it in their direction services.
 
 When commercial companies like Google decide to map the not-yet-mapped, they use “The Starbucks Test,” as OSMers like to call it. If you’re within a certain radius of a chain coffee shop, Google will invest in maps to make it easy to find. Everywhere else, especially in the developing world, other virtual cartographers have to fill in the gaps.
 
 

Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now

Gloria Orrigi:

The paradigm shift from the age of information to the age of reputation must be taken into account when we try to defend ourselves from ‘fake news’ and other misinformation and disinformation techniques that are proliferating through contemporary societies. What a mature citizen of the digital age should be competent at is not spotting and confirming the veracity of the news. Rather, she should be competent at reconstructing the reputational path of the piece of information in question, evaluating the intentions of those who circulated it, and figuring out the agendas of those authorities that leant it credibility.
 
 Whenever we are at the point of accepting or rejecting new information, we should ask ourselves: Where does it come from? Does the source have a good reputation? Who are the authorities who believe it? What are my reasons for deferring to these authorities? Such questions will help us to get a better grip on reality than trying to check directly the reliability of the information at issue. In a hyper-specialised system of the production of knowledge, it makes no sense to try to investigate on our own, for example, the possible correlation between vaccines and autism. It would be a waste of time, and probably our conclusions would not be accurate. In the reputation age, our critical appraisals should be directed not at the content of information but rather at the social network of relations that has shaped that content and given it a certain deserved or undeserved ‘rank’ in our system of knowledge.
 
 These new competences constitute a sort of second-order epistemology. They prepare us to question and assess the reputation of an information source, something that philosophers and teachers should be crafting for future generations.

“A tenet of the Estonian system is that an individual owns all information recorded about him or her”

Nathan Heller:

It was during Kotka’s tenure that the e-Estonian goal reached its fruition. Today, citizens can vote from their laptops and challenge parking tickets from home. They do so through the “once only” policy, which dictates that no single piece of information should be entered twice. Instead of having to “prepare” a loan application, applicants have their data—income, debt, savings—pulled from elsewhere in the system. There’s nothing to fill out in doctors’ waiting rooms, because physicians can access their patients’ medical histories. Estonia’s system is keyed to a chip-I.D. card that reduces typically onerous, integrative processes—such as doing taxes—to quick work. “If a couple in love would like to marry, they still have to visit the government location and express their will,” Andrus Kaarelson, a director at the Estonian Information Systems Authority, says. But, apart from transfers of physical property, such as buying a house, all bureaucratic processes can be done online.

Self-driving cars will profoundly change the way people live

Economist:

ROAD TRIPS. DRIVE-THROUGHS. Shopping malls. Freeways. Car chases. Road rage. Cars changed the world in all sorts of unforeseen ways. They granted enormous personal freedom, but in return they imposed heavy costs. People working on autonomous vehicles generally see their main benefits as mitigating those costs, notably road accidents, pollution and congestion. GM’s boss, Mary Barra, likes to talk of “zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.” AVs, their champions argue, can offer all the advantages of cars without the drawbacks.
 
 In particular, AVs could greatly reduce deaths and injuries from road accidents. Globally, around 1.25m people die in such accidents each year, according to the WHO; it is the leading cause of death among those aged 15-29. Another 20m-50m people are injured. Most accidents occur in developing countries, where the arrival of autonomous vehicles is still some way off. But if the switch to AVs can be advanced even by a single year, “that’s 1.25m people who don’t die,” says Chris Urmson of Aurora, an AV startup. In recent decades cars have become much safer thanks to features such as seat belts and airbags, but in America road deaths have risen since 2014, apparently because of distraction by smartphones. AVs would let riders text (or drink) to their heart’s content without endangering anyone.
 
 Evidence that AVs are safer is already building up. Waymo’s vehicles have driven 4m miles on public roads; the only accidents they have been involved in while driving autonomously were caused by humans in other vehicles. AVs have superhuman perception and can slam on the brakes in less than a millisecond, compared with a second or so for human drivers. But “better than human” is a low bar. People seem prepared to tolerate deaths caused by human drivers, but AVs will have to be more or less infallible. A realistic goal is a thousandfold improvement over human drivers, says Amnon Shashua of Mobileye, a maker of AV technology. That would reduce the number of road deaths in America each year from 40,000 to 40, a level last seen in 1900. If this can be achieved, future generations may look back on the era of vehicles driven by humans as an aberration. Even with modern safety features, some 650,000 Americans have died on the roads since 2000, more than were slain in all the wars of the 20th century (about 630,000).

Ride-hailing apps are now 65% bigger than taxis in NYC, and the impact of “DeleteUber”

:

In Brooklyn, Uber is now bigger than taxis
 
 October 12, 2015 marked the first day that Uber made more pickups in Brooklyn than yellow and green taxis combined. As of June 2016, Uber makes 60% more pickups per day than taxis do, and the gap appears to be growing. Lyft has also surpassed yellow taxis in Brooklyn, but still makes fewer pickups than green boro taxis.

Portland collects $3 million more than it needs from Uber and Lyft passengers

Kyle Iboshi:

The city of Portland has tapped into an unexpected stream of revenue: Uber and Lyft. A 50-cent surcharge, which is paid by passengers for every ride-hailing trip or taxi, has raised $6.7 million since 2016, according to data obtained through a public records request.

By law, the revenue can only be used for enforcement and regulation of the ride-hailing and taxi industries, which puts the city in an unusual position. The 50-cent surcharge is currently bringing in more money than the city needs to run the program.

“The program is not designed to make money,” said Dave Benson, a senior manager for the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “Right now we have about 3 million in excess dollars.”

As ride-hailing services increase in popularity, the city expects to generate even more revenue.

Last year, Uber, Lyft and taxis recorded a record 10 million rides in Portland, according to PBOT.

“Ten million rides is enough for 15 rides for every man, woman and child in the city of Portland,” said Benson. “I thought we would have hit the ceiling by now. Every quarter we see the numbers going up.”

BMW Vets Raise A Stunning $1 Billion For Stealth EV Startup

Alan Ohnsman:

Rather than building and operating its own auto-assembly plant, which has required billions of dollars of capital expenditures for Tesla, EVelozcity is in talks with U.S. and Chinese companies for contract production, Krause said. Also unlike Tesla, it will source batteries, motors and components for autonomous driving capability from outside suppliers.
 
 “Over time battery packs and electric motors will not offer a potential for differentiation anymore,” Krause said. “The technology is evolving and that will be a commodity over time.”
 
 The brand’s value will come from unique design and engineering, taking a page from Apple.
 
 “If you look at Apple, they are designers and engineers, they don’t necessarily manufacture themselves,” Krause said. “We want to develop an American boutique, native EV brand. That’s what we’re all about. We believe that the engineering and design skills are going to be the core ones, not the manufacturing ones.”

VW Just Gave Tesla a $25 Billion Battery Shock

Chris Reiter and Christoph Rauwald:

Volkswagen AG secured 20 billion euros ($25 billion) in battery supplies to underpin an aggressive push into electric cars in the coming years, ramping up pressure on Tesla Inc. as it struggles with production issues for the mainstream Model 3.
 
 The world’s largest carmaker will equip 16 factories to produce electric vehicles by the end of 2022, compared with three currently, Volkswagen said Tuesday in Berlin. The German manufacturer’s plans to build as many as 3 million of the cars a year by 2025 is backstopped by deals with suppliers including Samsung SDI Co., LG Chem Ltd. and Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. for batteries in Europe and China.

“They’re using our streets… we don’t currently have any revenue from it.”

Cyrus Farivar:

A local city council member is beginning to float the idea of taxing ridehailing companies like Uber and Lyft as a possible way to raise millions of dollars and help pay for local public transportation and infrastructure improvements.

If the effort is successful, Oakland could become the first city in California—Uber and Lyft’s home state—to impose such a tax. However, it’s not clear whether Oakland or any other city in the Golden State has the authority to do so under current state rules.

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan told the East Bay Express that she wants the city council to put forward a ballot measure that would tax such rides.

“The power to tax is a separate power regardless of whether or not you can regulate something,” said Kaplan in an interview with the alt-weekly. “They’re using our streets to do business, and we don’t currently have any revenue from it.”

For now, no California city taxes on a per-ride basis—although airports are allowed to impose a pickup and drop-off fee. That fee at Oakland International Airport, for instance, is $3.70, paid by the passenger.

Other American cities, such as Seattle and Chicago, currently impose add-on fees ranging from 14 cents to 40 cents per trip. Since 2016, Massachusetts has imposed a five-cent fee to subsidize the state’s taxi industry.

BMW Boss: ‘We’re not interested in electric motorcycles, only scooters’

motofire:

Stephan Schaller, the BMW Motorrad MD isn’t one to mince words. When he launched the electric Concept Link at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa in 2017 he and the mammoth motorcycle manufacturer already stated that he believed that vehicles that ‘move in the city’ would be the focus for the company’s electric future; referring directly to scooters such as the C-Evolution or the Concept Link.

Now, in an interview with Italian publisher Motociclismo, he speaks with even more clarity when discussing placing batteries into larger, motorcycle-shaped frames.

“Building an electric motorcycle isn’t an impossible, technical challenge, and you can solve every problem. But can you imagine supplying electricity in the desert?”, he continues, referring to putting batteries into a GS Adventure.

Is Southern California’s ‘dockless’ electric scooter fad a public safety hazard?

Joshua Emerson Smith:

As Southern California continues to embrace ‘dockless’ bike sharing, a new player in the app-based mobility market has picked up considerable momentum — electric scooters.

These motorized scooters have created a challenge for local authorities as riders of all ages from beach communities to urban centers have in recent weeks and months been riding illegally on sidewalks and without helmets.

Like dockless rental bikes, users can unlock the scooters using a smart phone and then drop them anywhere. The business comes in contrast to the docked model, where users must pick up and return bikes to a fixed station.

Most recently, the city of San Diego seems to have been caught flatfooted enforcing state laws on the increasingly popular motorized scooters.

Bird is raising $100 million to become the Uber of electric scooters

Jonathan Shieber:

The problem with the city’s argument for regulating Bird is that it’s claiming that Bird should be governed by current ordinances that cover… food trucks. It’s the benefit (for Bird) of operating in a legally grey area with a service that lawmakers could never have predicted when writing regulations — something, again, that VanderZanden is familiar with from his days in the wild world of ride-sharing.

What’s also familiar is the phenomenon that taking a Bird (flipping a Bird?) has become. It’s a legitimate phenomenon in Los Angeles — with investors and customers alike excited about the potential of a low-cost, last-mile solution providing fast rides for an initial cost of $1 and 15 cents per minute traveled.

One executive from Sidewalk Labs visiting Los Angeles from New York couldn’t stop talking about the transformative potential of last-mile mobility solutions like Bird when I spoke to them weeks ago (Sidewalk Labs has not been mentioned as an investor in the latest financing for the company).

Right place, right time: Analysis of car sharing availability in Berlin

Jan Ustohal:

Wednesday, 9pm, raining. You just finished watching Bergman’s latest movie and you really want to be home soon, without having to walk around in the rain. You open your car2go app, only to find that the nearest car is good 20 minute walk from you. Well, the öffi it is, then.

As an avid user of car-sharing services I found myself in a similar situation quite often, staring at an empty screen, hoping for at least one available car to appear in a reasonable vicinity. Every time I thought whether it’s just bad luck, or whether I am literally in the wrong place at the wrong time. Is there a pattern to the availability of car sharing cars? Where (and when) do you have the highest chance of getting a car?

New York Is Confiscating Delivery Bikes, Hurting Immigrants, And Helpi

Eillie Anzilotti:

Zhu’s e-bike, which he bought for around $1,000, is his lifeline. When he spoke to Fast Company, he was getting over a cold, but the extra boost from his motor allowed him to keep pedaling without exhausting himself. If he stopped making deliveries, even for a day, he would fall behind on rent and supporting his family. He tries to fit as many deliveries in as possible during a shift; there’s no other way for him to earn enough in tips to supplement his low hourly pay. And for that, the quicker bike is essential. “It would be impossible to make all those deliveries without it,” he says.
 
 But under a revamped policy recently implemented by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, Zhu could face fines, or even confiscation, for riding his e-bike in the city. Technically, due to a mismatch in the law, electric bikes are legal to own but illegal to operate, in New York. (Federal law treats motorized bikes like regular bikes. New York state law considers them vehicles, but there’s no way for riders to register them.) The New York Police Department has variably enforced this law over the years; there have been previous incidences of crackdowns on people who ride e-bikes, but this one is different: It was declared as official policy by the mayor.
 
 It’s also been received with total silence from delivery companies like GrubHub, which have facilitated the massive boom in delivery work in cities like New York. The company issued a statement to Fast Company stating that all workers and restaurants that use the platform are obliged to follow local laws, but GrubHub has largely skirted commentary on the e-bike ban, particularly its effect on workers (the company did not respond to multiple attempts for further comment). This silence testifies to a fundamentally untenable problem within the gig economy–the distance between the big tech companies at the top, and the often vulnerable workers that power them on the bottom. While immigrant and bike advocates push for e-bike legalization, de Blasio’s crackdown should serve as a reckoning for gig economy companies regarding how they protect their workers, and under what terms.

Auto loyalty report

Edmunds:

In this report, we examined more than 13.9 million vehicle transactions to delve deep into what drives buyer loyalty at both the segment and the brand level. We uncover the reasons why shoppers have made such a dramatic pivot away from passenger cars toward SUVs. We call out the specific man- ufacturers that are managing to attract buyers to their passenger cars, and how that’s giving them an edge in overall buyer loyalty. We name the spe- cific brands, both mainstream and luxury, that are doing the best job at keeping car shoppers in their brand family — and call out exactly what they’re doing right.

German cars have the most to lose from a changing auto industry

The Economist:

GERMAN carmakers have much in common with the self-confident roadhogs who favour their vehicles. The cars they produce, with sleek design, doors that close with a satisfying thunk and roomy interiors swagged with leather and technology, are the dominant force at the upper end of the car market worldwide. At home, too, they are the purring engine of the economy; carmaking is by far Germany’s biggest industrial sector.

But cars are changing. Electric power and autonomous vehicles will alter radically the way they are used (see special report). The difficulty in adapting threatens not only future revenues and profits at the big three—Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen (VW)–but also Germany’s status as a mean economic machine.

Uber and Lyft Are Begging Government for a Monopoly on Self-Driving Cars

Brittany Hunter:

It’s only a matter of time before American roads are filled with self-driving cars. In fact, it is quite likely that within the next decade or so, all the vehicles we see on the road will be self-driving, making the cars of today a thing of the past.

Already, the race to develop these vehicles is well underway, as major companies from Volvo to Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, are competing to have the first line of autonomous cars to obtain government approval.

MIT Study: Median Uber and Lyft Profits Less Than Half Minimum Wage; 30% of Drivers Lose Money

Yves Smith:

We’ve said for some time that Uber and Lyft are exploiting the fact that their drivers don’t understand their own economics and don’t factor in the wear and tear on their vehicles. One former Uber driver did a back of the envelope work up and argued that you’d make more than minimum wage only if your car was more than six years old. The fact that only 4% of Uber drivers continue for more than a year suggests that working for these ride-sharing companies is an unattractive proposition.
 
 A large-scale study confirms these doubts about driver pay, and then some. A team from Stanford, Stephen M. Zoepf, Stella Chen, Paa Adu and Gonzalo Pozo, under the auspices of MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research obtained information from 1100 Uber and Lyft drivers using questionnaires and information about vehicle-specific operating costs, such as insurance, maintenance, repairs, fuel and depreciation.
 
 Their main finding:
 
 Results show that per hour worked, median profit from driving is $3.37/hour before taxes, and 74% of drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state. 30% of drivers are actually losing money once vehicle expenses are included. On a per-mile basis, median gross driver revenue is $0.59/mile but vehicle operating expenses reduce real driver profit to a median of $0.29/mile.
 
 If you gross up the median hourly profit to gross revenue, using the same ratio for gross revenue versus net profit per mile, median gross revenue is only $6.86 an hour, still below minimum wage. These drivers would be better off doing almost anything else. Consider the safety risks. From Wired:
 
 

Diesel cars can be banned from German cities, court rules

Markus Wacket and Ilona Wissenbach:

German cities can ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets, a court ruled on Tuesday, a move that could accelerate a shift away from the combustion engine and force manufacturers to pay to improve exhaust systems.
 
 The court said Stuttgart, which styles itself the birthplace of the modern automobile and is home to Mercedes-maker Daimler, should consider gradually imposing a year-round ban for older diesel models, while Duesseldorf should also think about curbs.
 
 Many other German cities exceed European Union limits on nitrogen oxide (NOx), known to cause respiratory disease. After the ruling, the northern city of Hamburg said it would start to implement limits on diesel vehicles from the end of April.
 
 There has been a global backlash against diesel-engine cars since leading German carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) admitted in 2015 to cheating U.S. exhaust tests. The scandal has spread across the industry and boosted investment in electric vehicles.

Why data science is simply the new astrology

Karthik Shashidhar:

I’ve spent most of the last six years playing around with data and drawing insights from it (a lot of those insights have been published in Mint). A lot of work that I’ve done can fall under the (rather large) umbrella of “data science”, and some of it can be classified as “machine learning”. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve been rather disappointed by what goes on in the name of data science.

Stripped to its bare essentials, machine learning is an exercise in pattern recognition. Given a set of inputs and outputs, the system tunes a set of parameters in a mathematical formula such that the outputs can be predicted with as much accuracy as possible given the inputs (I’m massively oversimplifying here, but this captures sufficient essence for this discussion).

One big advantage with machine learning is that algorithms can sometimes recognize patterns that are not easily visible to the human eye. The most spectacular application of this has been in the field of medical imaging, where time and again algorithms have been shown to outperform human experts while analysing images.

In February last year, a team of researchers from Stanford University showed that a deep learning algorithm they had built performed on par against a team of expert doctors in detecting skin cancer. In July, another team from Stanford built an algorithm to detect heart arrhythmia by analysing electrocardiograms, and showed that it outperformed the average cardiologist. More recently, algorithms to detect pneumonia and breast cancer have been shown to perform better than expert doctors.

Autonomous Taxis: Who Will Reap the Revenues and Profits from the Boom Ahead?

Tasha Keeney:

Autonomous vehicles will transform personal mobility by slashing the cost per mile relative to a traditional taxi, Uber, or personal car, according to ARK’s research. Here, we evaluate which firms will reap the benefits of a new market which promises to ramp from essentially $0 now to $10 trillion in global gross annual revenues by 2030.1
 
 We expect four types of firms to get a cut of the estimated $0.352 in revenue per mile that autonomous taxis will charge: platform providers, lead generators, vehicle manufacturers, and owner/operators, as shown below. Some companies probably will benefit from more than one source of revenues.

Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again

Mark Bergen:

On any given day, there could be a half dozen autonomous cars mapping the same street corner in Silicon Valley. These cars, each from a different company, are all doing the same thing: building high-definition street maps, which may eventually serve as an on-board navigation guide for driverless vehicles.
 
 These companies converge where the law and weather are welcoming—or where they can get the most attention. For example, a flock of mapping vehicles congregates every year in the vicinity of the CES technology trade show, a hot spot for self-driving feats. “There probably have been 50 companies that mapped Las Vegas simply to do a CES drive,” said Chris McNally, an analyst with Evercore ISI. “It’s such a waste of resources.”
 
 Autonomous cars require powerful sensors to see and advanced software to think. They especially need up-to-the-minute maps of every conceivable roadway to move. Whoever owns the most detailed and expansive version of these maps that vehicles read will own an asset that could be worth billions.
 
 Which is how you get an all-out mapping war, with dozens of contenders entering into a dizzying array of alliances and burning tens of millions of investment dollars in pursuit of a massive payoff that could be years away. Alphabet Inc.’s Google emerged years ago as the winner in consumer digital maps, which human drivers use to evade rush-hour traffic or find a restaurant. Google won by blanketing the globe with its street-mapping cars and with software expertise that couldn’t be matched by navigation companies, automakers and even Apple Inc. Nobody wants to let Google win again.
 
 The companies working on maps for autonomous vehicles are taking two different approaches. One aims to create complete high-definition maps that will let the driverless cars of the future navigate all on their own; another creates maps piece-by-piece, using sensors in today’s vehicles that will allow cars to gradually automate more and more parts of driving.

BP Forecast: Shared, Autonomous EVs Will Help Drive to Peak Oil Before 2040

Julia Pyper:

BP’s latest Energy Outlook sees peak oil on the horizon for the first time — driven by the rise of shared and autonomous electric vehicles.

Under the Evolving Transition (ET) scenario, which assumes that policies and technology continue to evolve at a speed similar to that seen in recent past, oil demand slows and eventually plateaus in the late 2030s.

At the same time, the total passenger vehicle fleet will nearly double to 2 billion cars by 2040 — including more than 320 million EVs, up from roughly 3 million today. This represents a significant increase over previous forecasts.

The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data As smarter vehicles become troves of personal information, get ready for coupon offers at the next stoplight

Gabrielle Coppola and David Welch:

Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.
 
 “Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”
 
 Carmakers’ ultimate objective, Lanctot said, is to build a database of consumer preferences that could be aggregated and sold to outside vendors for marketing purposes, much like Google and Facebook do today.

Toyota Readies Cheaper Electric Motor by Halving Rare Earth Use

Kevin Buckland and Nao Sano:

Toyota Motor Corp. is readying electric motors that include as much as 50 percent less in rare earths amid concern of a supply crunch as automakers race to expand their electric-vehicle lineups.

Asia’s biggest carmaker has developed a magnet for the motors that as much as halves the use of a rare earth called neodymium and eliminates the use of others called terbium and dysprosium, the company said at a briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday. In their place, Toyota will use the rare earths lanthanum and cerium, which cost 20 times less than neodymium. The carmaker plans to ask suppliers to manufacture the magnets.

Toyota sees demand for neodymium exceeding supply from 2025, by which time the carmaker intends to be offering an electrified version of every vehicle in its lineup. By 2030, Toyota aims to sell 5.5 million electrified vehicles — including 1 million wholly battery- or hydrogen-powered cars — accounting for half of its projected deliveries. Motors with the magnets can be used in any electrified powertrain, the company said.