Self-Driving RVs, Not Cars, Will Bring About the True Paradigm Shift

Andrew Ryan:

There is no end to the list of questions—some of immediate concern, others exclusively the province of science fiction—we humans would like answered about the always-just-around-the-corner-but-never-quite-here technology of artificial intelligence. Will robots replace the working class? Will we wake up one day and find ourselves prisoners of The Matrix? Will realistic robots replace human relationships? Will AI supersede humans, rendering us obsolete altogether?
 By comparison to these big, world-changing questions, the question I want to pose here deals with a more imminent and tangible matter: What, if any, paradigm shifts can we expect should we succeed in building genuine self-driving cars? The current discussion has addressed an array of legitimate concerns that can be summarized as a cost-benefit analysis:
 Benefits: improved safety, reduced traffic congestion, better public transportation, improved fuel efficiency, car sharing, higher speed limits, elimination of drunk/distracted driving, reallocation of police resources, less parking infrastructure, increased freedom for the elderly, young, and disabled.
 Costs: high price of vehicles and infrastructure, complexity of equipment, possible need to ban human drivers altogether (implying a wrenching transition period), security concerns (hacking), loss of transportation jobs (taxis, truckers), legal/ethical/regulatory issues, unreliability of vehicles, loss of driving skills, fear of relinquishing control, insufficient GPS/map accuracy/completeness, potential low acceptance rate by driving enthusiasts.

Ford CTO Q & A

Ina Fried:

The biggest influence will be how the cars are bought, sold and used: “You would design those vehicles differently depending on what business model (is being used). We’re working through that business model question right now.”
 Ford isn’t closed to working with Apple and Google, but it is still treading carefully. “We are not ceding our future to anyone but at the same time we are being very strategic about who we partner with,” Washington said. (Former CEO Mark Fields had warned carmakers risk the same fate as phone manufacturers in the smartphone era — seeing control and profits shift to software makers.)
 The biggest misconceptions about autonomous capabilities is that it’s only about software. “People are imagining that the act of doing software for autonomy is all you need to do and then you can just bolt it to the car,” he said.

Is the Open Office Layout Dead?

April Kilcrease:

Today, the open office layout is back with a vengeance. In a 2013 survey by CoreNet Global, an association for corporate real estate managers, more than 80% of respondents said their company had moved toward an open space floor plan. And once again, the backlash has begun. In the last five years, a slew of articles with alarmist titles like “Death To The Open Office Floor Plan!” and “Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell” have assailed the supposedly progressive design.
 So what exactly is wrong with the modern open office layout and how can we create spaces that fulfill the promise of a happy and collaborative workplace?
 What isn’t working
 By design, colleagues are more accessible in an open office layout. The minute a question pops into your head, you can easily hop over to a co-worker’s desk, or simply swivel your chair to face them. Unfortunately, these well-intentioned intrusions can lead to real problems.
 First among those is reduced productivity. According to a study on the cost of interrupted work, a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. Even worse, people often take up to 25 minutes to refocus on the original task.
 And without physical barriers to block it out, noise may be the number one problem with open office plans. Together, loud phone talkers, gossipy co-workers, and that guy chomping on an apple every afternoon can frazzle your auditory system. Researchers have found that the loss of productivity due to noise distraction doubles in open office layouts compared to private offices, and open office noise reduces the ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.
 As anyone who’s had to call their doctor from their desk knows, one of the worst parts of open office layouts is that you can’t control who you hear—or who hears you. In a 2013 study about the privacy-communication trade-off in open offices, 60% of cubicle workers and half of all employees in partitionless offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem.

Bill Joy Finds the Jesus Battery

Steven Levy

But earlier this month came news of a potential game changer, from no less a tech luminary than Bill Joy. A long-time investor in clean tech—for years he was involved in venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins’ ill-fated foray into “green” funding—Joy is now serving on the board of Ionic Materials, a battery-tech company in which he has invested. (His personal investment comes on top of the KP funding he oversaw; he is no longer with the venture firm.) Because of Joy’s earlier history as a legendary computer scientist—a co-founder of Sun, a co-inventor of Java, and a visionary who was working on the Internet of Things two decades ago—his views have weight, separate and apart from his financial interest in the company.
 As Joy explains it, Ionic’s innovations combine the advantages of the familiar alkaline batteries we buy at the drugstore (cheap, safe, and reliable) with those of the more expensive, fire-prone lithium batteries in our computers and phones (powerful, rechargeable, and more earth-friendly). He claims Ionic’s new approach is a big step to cheaper, safer, and more efficient batteries will not only power our devices and vehicles, but also enable an “energy internet” based on renewable sources.

Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It

Tom Verde

“We went from a 3,000-square-foot colonial with three floors to a single-story, 1,400-square-foot living space,” said Tena Bluhm, 76, formerly of Fairfax, Va. She and her 77-year-old husband, Ray Bluhm, moved this month to a retirement community in Lake Ridge, Va.
 Before the move, their two adult children took a handful of items, including a new bed and a dining table and chairs. But Mrs. Bluhm could not interest them in “the china and the silver and the crystal,” her own generation’s hallmarks of a properly furnished, middle-class home.
 The competitive accumulation of material goods, a cornerstone of the American dream, dates to the post-World War II economy, when returning veterans fled the cities to establish homes and status in the suburbs. Couples married when they were young, and wedding gifts were meant to be used — and treasured — for life.

Why didn’t electricity immediately change manufacturing?

Tim Harford:

But given the huge investment this involved, they were often disappointed with the savings. Until about 1910, plenty of entrepreneurs looked at the new electrical drive system and opted for good old-fashioned steam.

Why? Because to take advantage of electricity, factory owners had to think in a very different way. They could, of course, use an electric motor in the same way as they used steam engines. It would slot right into their old systems.

But electric motors could do much more. Electricity allowed power to be delivered exactly where and when it was needed.

Small steam engines were hopelessly inefficient but small electric motors worked just fine. So a factory could contain several smaller motors, each driving a small drive shaft.

As the technology developed, every workbench could have its own machine tool with its own little electric motor.

Power wasn’t transmitted through a single, massive spinning drive shaft but through wires.

A factory powered by steam needed to be sturdy enough to carry huge steel drive shafts. One powered by electricity could be light and airy.

Steam-powered factories had to be arranged on the logic of the driveshaft. Electricity meant you could organise factories on the logic of a production line.

More efficient

Old factories were dark and dense, packed around the shafts. New factories could spread out, with wings and windows allowing natural light and air.

In the old factories, the steam engine set the pace. In the new factories, workers could do so.

You needed to change everything: the architecture and the production process.

And because workers had more autonomy and flexibility, you even had to change the way they were recruited, trained and paid.

Factory owners hesitated, for understandable reasons.

Of course they didn’t want to scrap their existing capital. But maybe, too, they simply struggled to think through the implications of a world where everything needed to adapt to the new technology.

In the end, change happened. It was unavoidable.

Mains electricity became cheaper and more reliable. American workers become more expensive thanks to a series of new laws that limited immigration from a war-torn Europe.

The holy Grail of gasoline engines

Mazda HCCI.

When Teens Don’t Drive Safely, Toyota’s Clever App Plays Their Parents’ Embarrassing Music

Lauren Johnson:

Here’s a sure-fire way to get teen drivers to stay safe behind the wheel: Threaten to embarrass them by playing mom and dad’s favorite tunes.
 That’s the idea behind Toyota’s new app from Saatchi & Saatchi London that basically functions as a teen’s virtual parent while they’re driving. First, both a parent and teen download the Safe and Sound app, which is available on all Android devices in Europe.
 When a teen asks to borrow a parent’s car, parents click a button and the app pulls in Google Maps API to track how fast the driver is going. After it senses that the vehicle is moving faster than 9 mph, it automatically flips into ‘do not disturb’ mode that blocks all incoming calls and social media notifications.
 The app also plugs into Spotify to link up a parent’s and child’s playlists. If the driver tries to touch the phone or speeds while listening to Spotify, the app begins to play the parent’s playlist on Spotify, which the agency expects will include some embarrassing music from artists who kids may find dated like say, Milli Vanilli. “There’s nothing teenagers fear more than being seen as uncool,” says Saatchi & Saatchi London in a statement.
 Once the teenager takes his or her hand off the phone or slows down, the driver’s own playlist will resume playing. The app sends the parent and child a message at the end of the drive containing a summary of the trip.

Car buying apps

Neil Boudette

The latest step forward comes from AutoGravity, a start-up based in Irvine, Calif., whose smartphone app for auto financing is gaining some traction. The app allows consumers to apply for and obtain approval for auto financing in a matter of minutes, and is now accepted at thousands of dealers across the country. It has been downloaded more than 500,000 times via the Apple and Android app stores.
 In July, Volkswagen’s credit arm bought a stake in AutoGravity for a reported $30 million. That follows an equity investment by Daimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, in February. AutoGravity started as a project within Daimler’s financing arm and was set up as an independent company in 2015.
 The app addresses one of the most tedious steps in the car-purchasing process: waiting around, sometimes for hours, while the dealer tries to line up a loan. Nowadays, it’s often quite a sum. Americans borrowed an average of $30,689 to buy new cars in July.
 Individual banks also make it possible to apply for loans by smartphone or online. But AutoGravity generates loan offers from up to four different institutions, allowing users to compare rates, payments and costs.

Designer Roy Lunn Dies at 92

Sam Roberts

Trained as an aeronautical engineer, Mr. Lunn designed brawny cars that flew (literally, in one case) off the track, hurtling along highways and racecourses and giving Ford worldwide bragging rights in the late 1960s as a four-time winner of the glamorous endurance sports-car racing crown at Le Mans, France.
 Mr. Lunn went from apprenticing as a 14-year-old machinist to designing and driving racing cars, and then to engineering more functional vehicles.
 One of his team’s creations, the lightweight 1983 Jeep Cherokee, with its integrated chassis and bodywork, fostered a huge market for the family sport utility vehicle. Another, the American Motors Eagle, introduced in 1979, was the first four-wheel-drive car mass-produced in the United States.
 Still another of his projects, the short-lived Cardinal, Ford’s first front-wheel-drive vehicle, was reintroduced in Germany and developed into today’s Taurus.

The Electric-Bike Conundrum

Thomas Beller:

I grew up as a bike rider in Manhattan, and I also worked as a bike messenger, where I absorbed the spartan, libertarian, every-man-for-himself ethos: you need to get somewhere as fast as possible, and you did what you had to do in order to get there. The momentum you give is the momentum you get. Bike messengers were once faddish for their look, but it’s this feeling of solitude and self-reliance that is, along with the cult of momentum, the essential element of that profession. The city—with its dedicated lanes and greenways—is a bicycle nirvana compared with what it once was, and I have had to struggle to remake my bicycle life in this new world of good citizenship. And yet, immediately, there was something about electric bikes that offended me. On a bike, velocity is all. That guy on the electric bike speeding through the night was probably going to have to break hard at some point soon. If he wanted to pedal that fast to attain top speed on the Second Avenue hill that sloped down from the high Eighties, then it was his right to squander it. But he hadn’t worked to go that fast. And, after he braked—for a car, or a pedestrian, or a turn—he wouldn’t have to work to pick up speed again.


‘Deep’ Subprime Car Loan Delinquencies Highest Since 2007 (As Auto Dealer Offers Bad FICO Rebate!)

 Anthony Sanders:

It was bound to happen, despite Dodd-Frank legislation and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau following the financial crisis.
 (Bloomberg) — Amid all the reflection on the 10-year anniversary of the start of the subprime loan crisis, here’s a throwback that investors could probably do without.
 There’s a section of the auto-loan market — known in industry parlance as deep subprime — where delinquency rates have ticked up to levels last seen in 2007, according to data compiled by credit reporting bureau Equifax.

The ultimate guide to bike-sharing and the future of “China to Global” exports

Spencer Yang:

The impetus for both companies has been to scale globally. Mobike and Ofo have both opened up in cities aggressively. Ofo has entered Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, while juggling new cities in further markets like Seattle; Mobike has also been expanding aggressively in Europe and other Western cities. Both have started moving into the US market, with Ofo also fighting local companies there such as Spin (started by Singaporean founders based in the US) and Limebike.
 The competition is intense on many fronts — in China, companies like 3Vbike’s failure follows last month’s closure of Chongqing-based bike sharer Wukong. The company’s founder blamed the shutdown on its inability to secure quality bicycles like those used by its larger competitors.

World’s first autonomous cargo ship to set sail in 2018

Alice Morby:

The world’s first autonomous, zero-emissions container ship is set to embark on its maiden voyage in 2018, delivering goods between Norwegian towns.
 The vessel is currently being developed by chemical experts Yara and aerospace company Kongsberg.
 In a blog post published on the Kongsberg website in May, the company revealed that self-driving ship will make its debut in the latter half of 2018 – transporting fertiliser from Yara’s plant in Porsgrunn to ports in Brevik and Larvik.

Trucking Industry Races Toward Over-the-Air Software Updates

Ryan Zum:

The yearly tune-up to keep a vehicle operating at its peak may one day be a thing of the past.
 Instead, it will be done without even leaving the driveway.
 Automakers and truck manufacturers are racing to develop software update technology that wirelessly tunes the network of computers that control a vehicle’s operations.
 Just as an iPhone can install the latest operating system when it becomes available, passenger cars to Class 8 semi-trailer trucks will soon have the ability to download over-the-air, or OTA, enhancements without the need of a mechanic.
 By 2023 there will be more than 140 million passenger vehicles globally equipped with cloud-enabled technology that can manage some types of OTA updates, according to IHS Markit, an industry research firm. Nearly 20 million will have the ability to download updates directly into their core electronic control unit, which runs every major component, including the engine.
 In the trucking industry, the ability to download fixes and upgrades could save huge sums of money.
 In 2016, Navistar International Corp. began offering OTA updates without charge for owners of certain International brand trucks. Customers with older vehicles – but still built since 2010 — can also add the technology for a fee.

Highlights of the US Mobile Market Q2 2017

Chetan Sharma:

After a brutal first quarter, the US wireless market recovered a bit in Q2 with positive revenue growth though service revenue declined again.
 Q1 saw the first ever decline in US mobile data services revenue. In Q2, the operators saw a return to the positive territory. Verizon recovered.
 US mobile data revenues eclipsed the 80% mark for the first time. US became the second nation after Japan to do so.
 Smartphone penetration went past 90%.
 IoT and Cars accounted for 71% of the net-adds for the quarter.
 Ecosystem has been trying to find the next big merger but efforts haven’t borne any fruits yet.
 While the operators struggled to maintain growth, the overall wireless market is expected to grow 18% in 2017 thanks to the continued explosion on the 4th Wave by new digital players.

Here’s What Goldman Is Telling Big Money Clients About Bitcoin

Camila Russo

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is acknowledging that it’s getting harder for institutional investors to ignore the cryptocurrency market with total assets ballooning to $120 billion and bitcoin soaring more than 200 percent this year.
 “Whether or not you believe in the merit of investing in cryptocurrencies (you know who you are), real dollars are at work here and warrant watching,” analysts including Robert Boroujerdi and Jessica Binder Graham wrote in a Q&A sent to clients.

Angela Merkel rival takes aim at German car chiefs


The future of the automotive sector, Germany’s biggest exporter and provider of about 800,000 jobs, has become a hot election issue as politicians blame executives and each other for the industry’s battered reputation following the emissions scandal.
 Schulz, leader of the left-leaning Social Democratic party (SPD), took aim at what he described as “irresponsible managers” in the sector. “The problem is, we are living through a situation in Germany in which managers worth millions at VW [Volkswagen], at Daimler, have fallen asleep and forgotten the future,” he told broadcaster ZDF.

Merkel kicks off campaign with attack on German motor industry

Stean Wagstyl:

But she defended diesel and backed the industry, saying it had a key role in the economy and required support as it responded to technological change, not just with electric cars, but self-drive vehicles and car-sharing systems. And she pledged government backing for innovation saying: “Where companies cannot manage it alone, the government must stand behind them and push things along.”

The chancellor rejected a proposal made last week by Mr Schulz, as he tries to revive his flagging election hopes, for a quota for electric vehicles. She questioned whether quotas could be effectively implemented across the EU.

On economic policy, Ms Merkel went out of her way to appeal to SPD voters with a powerful defence of Germany’s “social market” economy, where market forces are balanced by social intervention.

She took some credit for the minimum wage, introduced by the SPD in the current coalition, saying it had brought many workers “more security”.

She also backed concerns, first raised by trade unions, about contract workers supplied to employers by agencies. She said flexibility had to be matched by protection for the people involved.

Ms Merkel did not once mention Mr Schulz or overtly attack the SPD, in a classic display of the “assymetric demobilisation” approach she has used in previous elections in which she deliberately avoids goading the opposition into action. Instead she three times praised Franz Müntefering, a former SPD finance minister in a Merkel-led coalition, who in 2009 authored plans for raising the retirement age from 63 to 67.


Inside EVs

Another influential voice has joined the chorus predicting that electric vehicles (EVs) will soon disrupt the global auto industry. A team from financial giant UBS took apart a Chevy Bolt and published an in-depth cost analysis of the new vehicle (details). However, its report went much further, making some bold predictions about the future of the automotive market.

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

The immediate purpose of the exercise was of course to estimate GM’s cost to build the $37,000 vehicle. UBS said that the Bolt’s electric powertrain is $4,600 cheaper to produce than it previously estimated, “with much cost reduction potential left.” However, GM is still selling the Bolt at a loss. “We estimate that GM loses $7,400 in earnings before interest and tax on every Bolt sold today, mainly due to a lack of scale,” wrote UBS’s analysts.

Minnesota State Patrol writing 80 percent more speeding tickets than just three years ago

 David Montgomery and Sophie Carson:

People are getting more speeding tickets in Minnesota — a lot more.
 State troopers wrote 44,772 tickets in 2014, or one for every 122 residents of the state. Just two years later, the number of State Patrol tickets had increased by more than 80 percent to 81,476. That’s one ticket for every 68 Minnesota residents.

German eHighway plans


Siemens has been commissioned by the German state of Hesse to build an overhead contact line for electrified freight transport on a ten-kilometer stretch of autobahn. The line will supply electricity for the electric drive of a hybrid truck. Siemens originally presented its innovative “eHighway” concept in 2012. The system will be installed on the A5 federal autobahn between the Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd interchange at the Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange.

Leaving town at rush hour? Here’s how far you’re likely to get from America’s largest cities.

Sahil Chinoy:

Using billions of anonymous measurements from cell phones and vehicle sensors, Here Technologies, a location platform company, calculates how traffic conditions change throughout the day, said Alex Gordy, director of the company’s product management for traffic. That information can be used to predict how far you can get if you depart at rush hour versus later at night.
 In Boston, you can drive a full 20 miles farther if you leave at 10 p.m. than if you leave at rush hour. Twenty miles might not seem like much, but in tightly packed New England, it’s the difference between being stuck in Massachusetts or escaping to neighboring Rhode Island or New Hampshire.
 Compare that to Houston — a city with more than three times as many people as Boston — where you can travel almost 50 miles in one hour no matter what time you depart.

Workers: Building Teslas for Elon Musk Is Hell

Kelly Weill::

Elon Musk and many of his employees at his Tesla factory agree on one point: Work is hell.

For Musk, the billionaire CEO of the electric car company, that hell is a technical inconvenience. Tesla, which currently sells a small number of high-end cars, recently announced its plans to massively increase production and enter the mass market with its Model 3 car. “Frankly, we’re going to be in production hell,” Musk told Tesla employees during a July 28 announcement. “For at least six months, maybe longer.”

For a number of Tesla factory workers who are currently trying to unionize, hell feels like herniated neck disks, carpal tunnel, and tendinitis.

“Having to look up every day, 12 hours a day, six days a week, hands over my shoulder, it was two herniated disks in my neck,” Michael Sanchez told The Daily Beast. He has since moved to less-intensive work on door panels. “After three-plus years working at Tesla, it just starts adding on until you’re living the pain every day. Whether you’re off work or not.”

Tesla casts itself as the eco-friendly car of the future, but the tech company still depends on the physical labor of workers who assemble vehicles in its factory in Fremont, California. As the company enters a production blitz, some of these workers are demanding a union, citing a high rate of past injuries.

Industry leaders to form consortium for network and computing infrastructure of automotive big data

Toyota Newsroom:

DENSO Corporation, Ericsson, Intel Corporation, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), NTT DOCOMO, INC., Toyota InfoTechnology Center Co., Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corporation today announced that they have initiated the formation of the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium. The objective of the consortium is to develop an ecosystem for connected cars to support emerging services such as intelligent driving, the creation of maps with real-time data and driving assistance based on cloud computing.
 It is estimated that the data volume between vehicles and the cloud will reach 10 exabytes per month around 2025, approximately 10,000 times larger than the present volume. This expected increase will trigger the need for new architectures of network and computing infrastructure to support distributed resources and topology-aware storage capacity. The architectures will be compliant with applicable standards, which requires collaboration on a local and global scale.

The fast-changing new automotive ecosystem is leaving many players behind


Backdropped by what AlixPartners two years ago identified as the “CASE” trends that are completely revolutionizing the automotive industry – the connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles of the not-too-distant future — the global business-advisory firm today unveiled an analysis detailing how automakers, suppliers and other industry players need to evolve their organizations and their partnering approaches to successfully transition to a “new automotive ecosystem.” Using several examples, the firm detailed where companies, often relying on traditional auto-industry approaches, are falling behind and why they should consider revamping their operating models. Meanwhile, the report also forecasts a significant downturn in US sales ahead, to 16.9 million light-vehicle units this year and to a cyclical trough of 15.2 million units in 2019 – partly driven by a “used-car time bomb” of 500,000 more off-lease vehicle-returns in 2017 vs. 2016, on top of the 500,000 more in 2016 vs. 2015.

On the connectivity front, the analysis points to the example of Tesla Inc.’s “high-spec” center-stack display, featuring over-the-air upgrades from the company and iPad-like features. Though this feature has been on the market since the 2012 model year, and has garnered very strong reviews from consumers, no other major automaker has moved to match the system.

On the autonomous-vehicle front, the AlixPartners analysis finds there are now more than 50 major companies are now working on autonomous vehicles or full autonomous-vehicle systems, as well as a plethora of smaller companies and start-ups. This “Wild-West” environment will likely result in a handful of big winners, says the study, but on the other hand, also many disappointed investors. The report also notes that many of the newer high-tech entrants have completely different “DNAs” than traditional automotive companies, including being used to very high returns on capital. Given the white-hot competition brewing, the analysis predicts that AV systems-costs could drop 78% by 2025.

On the shared-mobility front, the analysis includes a survey of a total of 2,000 US adult consumers that shows just how fast things are changing in today’s automotive world. The survey polled 1,000 consumers across 10 large markets where both car-sharing and ride-sharing are popular (the metro areas of Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco-Oakland and Washington, D.C) and, as a control group, 1,000 respondents across the entire US. This mirrored a consumer survey by AlixPartners in November 2013. In this year’s survey, consumers in the 10 trend-setting markets said their awareness for virtually all major car-sharing brands (names such as Zipcar, Car2Go and Enterprise CarShare) has decreased, and 21% of respondents were unable to name any brands at all.

Mazda Announces Long-Term Vision for Technology Development, ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030′


Japan-Mazda Motor Corporation today announced “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030,” a new long-term vision for technology development that looks ahead to the year 2030. As part of the new technology to achieve this vision, the company disclosed plans to introduce a next-generation engine called SKYACTIV-X in 2019. SKYACTIV-X will be the world’s first commercial gasoline engine to use compression ignition.*1
 Under the original “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom” vision announced in 2007, the company has striven to offer both driving pleasure and outstanding environmental and safety performance. In light of the rapid changes taking place in the automotive industry, the new vision takes a longer-term perspective and sets out how Mazda will use driving pleasure, the fundamental appeal of the automobile, to help solve issues facing people, the earth and society.
 The following is an overview of “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030″ and the next-generation SKYACTIV-X engine.

Electric bike trials in Australia see 50% purchase and change transport habits

Mark Sutton:

Two ten week trials of electric bikes in Australia have resulted in a 50% uptake, with users reporting savings of around $530 over the hire.
 Sixty people in Perth and Albany were granted use of e-bikes in a study conducted by the RAC, the first run in 2015 and the latter late in 2016. Post-trial surveys have since returned some startling results, including news that around half have since purchased their own electric bike.
 Almost half of work trips completed by electric bike in the Albany trial, starting at a 60% peak in the first week and sustaining to 28% by week nine of the trial. (Time of year not weather indication were not cited). The majority suggested at the end of trials that they would be recommending electric bikes to friends and family.

Carmakers face threat from new drivers of profit

Patrick McGee::

As cars evolve into smartphones on wheels, and ride-sharing takes the place of vehicle ownership, the balance of power in the auto industry is undergoing a fundamental shift at the expense of the likes of GM, Ford, Honda and BMW — and in favour of the once unfashionable parts suppliers.

Judging by recent developments, many of the world’s biggest carmakers are lurching from one setback to another. The big three in Germany — Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW — face accusations that they held secret meetings over a number of years to collude on technology. In the US, Tesla has won blanket free advertising in the media for its new electric car, the Model 3.

Yet the established companies face an even deeper dilemma that goes to the core of their business model. There is a growing fear that carmakers will be shut out from selling vehicles to individual buyers, as ride-hailing apps — soon to feature self-driving vehicles — displace car ownership. Their new buyers will instead be fleet services that can purchase in bulk at lower prices, robbing carmakers of their brand value.

Bill Ford Thinks His Company Lacks Vision—and That He Can Fix It

Christina Rogers and Joann S. Lublin:

Two decades ago, when Bill Ford took the helm of his family’s auto company, he was ready to talk about the coming shift to electric vehicles and the eventual demise of car ownership.

His ideas were dismissed. At one point, when he wanted Ford Motor Co. F -0.27% to invest in developing alternative transportation, “the board kind of looked at me like once again I was over my ski tips,” Mr. Ford said in an interview.

As years went by, other auto makers and tech companies got on board with his way of thinking. They overtook Ford in electric and self-driving technologies, and in April, Tesla Inc., which sells stylish electric cars, passed Ford in investor value, a dashboard warning signaling Wall Street’s skepticism about the growth prospects of traditional car makers.

Ford was being left behind, and the man with his name on the door, who for years had largely deferred to management, decided to intervene.

In the past, the family heir let CEOs take the center stage. But what was leading the industry forward—new concepts in fuel efficiency and transportation—had been his focus for years. Plus, he was changing, spurred by the death in 2014 of his father, William Clay Ford Sr. , who was a presence at the company for more than 50 years.

GM shows Tesla how to make a truly mass-market electric car – Mashable

Brett Williams:

GM is expanding its electric aspirations and launching a super-compact, cheap EV — but it’s only coming to China.
 The automaker’s Chinese Baojun brand just launched its first mass-market electric car, the E100, for only about $5,300 USD after estimated local and national subsidies. The tiny two-seater looks like one of Mercedes-Benz’s smart cars (which has its own EV in the works), a design which GM claims is the perfect size for Chinese commuters looking for a compact, low-maintenance set of wheels.
 The E100 doesn’t provide a ton of range or power, but that’s not what GM/Baojun are aiming for here, especially at the low price point. The lithium-ion battery has an estimated range of about 96 miles per charge and takes about 7.5 hours to power up, so this is definitely a vehicle meant to be plugged in overnight between commutes

Uber Plans to Wind Down U.S. Car-Leasing Business

Greg Bensinger:

Uber Technologies Inc. plans to wind down its U.S. subprime car-leasing division to stem unsustainably high losses, according to people familiar with the matter, a major retreat just two years after starting the business.
 The ride-hailing company is aiming to close out or sell most of the business by year-end, these people said. As many as 500 jobs could be affected by the exit of the Xchange Leasing program, representing roughly 3% of Uber’s 15,000-employee staff.
 Uber executives were prompted to hit the brakes on the auto-leasing unit in part because they recently came to a stunning realization: The average loss per vehicle was about 18 times what they had thought.
 The Xchange Leasing division had been estimating modest losses of around $500 per auto on average, these people said. But managers recently informed Uber executives that the losses were actually about $9,000 per car—about half the sticker price of a typical leased vehicle.
 Uber executives last month briefed a board committee on the unit’s growing losses and agreed to put an end to it, the people said.

YouTube 8:38 Public key cryptography – Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange

Art of the Problem

Electric Car Boom Drives Rush to Mining’s $90 Billion Hub

David Stringer:

A scramble by the lithium market’s biggest players to tie up supply of the high-tech metal is gathering pace in the 170-year-old heartland of Australia’s $90 billion mining industry.
 Rising Chinese demand for lithium-ion batteries needed for electric vehicles and energy storage is driving significant price gains and an asset boom in Australia, already the world’s largest lithium producer. The fast-developing hub is drawing investment and deals from global producers as well as chemical-to-battery manufacturers in China, the top consumer.
 Western Australia has four operations in production and three more major projects being advanced to begin output. Major players are likely to continue to scope for deals in the state to secure supply for the next 20 or 30 years, according to consultant Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Going Direct: On The Insanity Of Flying Ubers m

Robert Goyer:

The emotional appeal of the flying car is something I don’t understand. Airplanes have been around for a long time, and they’re really good at doing what they do. Cars have been around even longer, and they’re even better at doing what they do, better, to explain, in that cars are supposed to stay firmly planted on the ground instead of fighting with all of its design might to avoid just that fate.
 So when I go somewhere, I like to fly there, and then, once I’ve arrived, I just get a car to drive around. There are free or cheap cars just about everywhere I’ve ever flown. And with a couple of good car share apps on my phone, I can always just summon an Uber.
 But, for some reason, many find the appeal of a flying car irresistible, to the point where a number of flying cars have been built, though only two of them ever produced, with only a few examples of each, at that. Several others are currently at various stages of development.

Restrictions on digital mapping by overseas firms present hurdles to non-Chinese vehicle and tech companies

Liza Lin and Tim Higgins:

China is creating roadblocks for U.S. auto makers and tech companies to bringing self-driving cars to the world’s largest auto market.

Citing national security concerns, China is limiting the amount of mapping that can be done by foreign companies, as General Motors Co. , Ford Motor Co., Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. rush to develop self-driving cars or the software behind them. High-definition maps are crucial for autonomous cars to help them discern their exact location, navigate tricky intersections and avoid fixed objects such as buildings.

Global car makers already need to form a partnership with a local company to open factories in China, but some are skeptical they will be able to find a way to operate their autonomous-car software in China because of the mapping restrictions.

Slight Street Sign Modifications Can Completely Fool Machine Learning Algorithms

Evan Ackerman

It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for us humans to understand how robots see the world. Their cameras work like our eyes do, but the space between the image that a camera captures and actionable information about that image is filled with a black box of machine learning algorithms that are trying to translate patterns of features into something that they’re familiar with. Training these algorithms usually involves showing them a set of different pictures of something (like a stop sign), and then seeing if they can extract enough common features from those pictures to reliably identify stop signs that aren’t in their training set.
 This works pretty well, but the common features that machine learning algorithms come up with generally are not “red octagons with the letters S-T-O-P on them.” Rather, they’re looking features that all stop signs share, but would not be in the least bit comprehensible to a human looking at them. If this seems hard to visualize, that’s because it reflects a fundamental disconnect between the way our brains and artificial neural networks interpret the world.

Newest home buyers: the generation known for not owning stuff

Schuyler Velasco

After three years in a one-bedroom apartment, Heatherington bought his split-level three-bedroom, two-bath home east of downtown Atlanta for $109,000 in July of last year. “I had the goal to buy within one year, but I wasn’t able to save anything,” he says.
 He managed to scrape together a 5 percent down payment, thanks to a promotion at his job doing quality control at a call center, and cutting back on spending. His monthly mortgage is now $750.
 “It makes me feel like a grownup,” says Heatherington. “I like the fact that it’s mine, it’s quiet, and that the dog has space to roam around. But in terms of drawbacks, now I’m responsible for repairs and I’m still learning the different noises the house makes.”

Vehicles haven’t been hitting the junkyard quick enough to maintain what had been a record pace.

Kyle Stock:

The American car and truck segment is remarkably easy to get a handle on, but a look at some of its indicators may induce some head-scratching. For the past 20 years, the number of licensed drivers has ticked up by about 2 million a year (Uber and Lyft have failed to dent that). Likewise, the number of registered vehicles has climbed by about 3 million annually.
 Sure, there are aberrations, but given those numbers and today’s economy—with a strong labor market, relatively affordable financing, and cheap gas—it’s reasonable to ask why, then, are car sales tanking?
 The only real wild card in the U.S. car market is the replacement rate, which is to say how often cars and trucks make their way to the junkyard. This is perhaps where auto executives should have seen the slowdown coming. In the past two decades, about 13 million vehicles were dropping out of the U.S. fleet every year, far less than the number of new vehicles sold over the past five years. Customers keen to upgrade kept the market running hot for awhile, but that imbalance finally caught up with automakers. As more vehicles stayed in the driveway, fewer came off the lot.

The war between Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

Will Chang:

Vail built AT&T’s network as a public service to improve the lives of its customers. Yet, AT&T eventually used its monopolistic advantages to tax customers without adding value. A public company must report to shareholders who care about short-term profit. It’s structurally impossible for Vail’s successors to have a founder’s idealism and authority to ignore their demands.
 Though Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Bezos are still on their thrones, the founders of Apple and Google have passed on their scepters. The FCC is repealing net neutrality. Our Four Pharaohs will utterly control your Nile while you build their pyramids. Could the Internet be closed and predatory in the next 10 years?

The Model 3 Is Further Proof of Tesla’s Asymmetric War Against the Auto Industry

Alex Roy:

OTA updates? Direct sales? Franchise dealer networks are the doom of the auto sector, as they fight tooth and nail to survive, crippling manufacturer efforts to educate, market, sell, and support “new” technologies to customers who are already using them daily, on phones they can buy for a few hundred dollars. Tesla is pushing out updates as often as they can, and doing so seamlessly.
 Clean sheet design? Chevy’s Bolt is fine, if you want an economy car with a battery. What is the industry releasing this year? Mild hybrids. Their dedicated EV platforms can’t come soon enough.
 Autonomy? The legacy companies’ best semi-autonomy can’t touch Tesla Autopilot at its worst, and full autonomy is too far away to matter.
 Sharing and hailing? Again, piecemeal investments and bet-hedging are doomed. Tesla’s strategy here remains to be seen—so why hasn’t anyone tried to get ahead before they do? GM should have bought Lyft when it had the chance.

Google told to come clean on how it tracks what you buy offline

Liam Tung:

Privacy rights group the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) will file a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over a system Google is using to link web activity with in-store card purchases.
 The complaint concerns Google’s new Store Sales Measurement program, which aims to demonstrate to advertisers that clicks online do lead to purchases at the register.
 According to The Washington Post, EPIC wants Google to be more transparent about what data on credit and debit card purchases it’s accessing, how it’s getting the information, and what encryption it’s using to ensure user data remains anonymous.
 Announcing the system in May, Google said third-party partnerships allow it to capture 70 percent of all payment card transactions in the US. The system matches transactions back to Google ads, which Google said was done in a “secure and privacy-safe way”. It also reports aggregated and anonymized store sales data to advertisers.

Self-driving cars will affect everything you know

Anika Patel

These were just a few drops in an ocean of secondary effects that came to be when we massively adopted the first feasible cars. When most people were able to afford a car, society went through an evolution.
 And while AVs will be more of a socioeconomic revolution rather than an evolution, we could still see a lot of secondary effects in the decades to come. An example includes changes in the workforce — taxi drivers, certain car mechanics, and traffic officers will no longer be professions.
 But here are three less obvious areas that I think will experience secondary effects when we massively adopt AVs:
 Land and Property Use

German carmakers deserve to be disrupted

Wolfgang Munchau:

The third and most important factor is an irreparable loss of consumer confidence. Scandals come and go, but the persistence of negative news reinforces negative views. Consumers have been paying premium prices not, as it turns out, for premium quality, but in support of an illegal cartel. Many customers have been duped by false emissions claims. Consumers’ rational response would be to seek alternatives or to pay less. Either way, high margins cannot be maintained.
 All three factors are colluding against the German car industry at a time when it should be in the advanced stages of developing new technologies, like the next generation of electrical engines or driverless cars. But the car industry itself and German car experts tend to be complacent. A study by Germany’s Ifo Institute for Economic Research makes the comforting point that the German car industry holds one-third of the patents for electric engines and for hybrids. But the number of patents is a poor indicator of real innovation. It misjudges the dynamics of a fast-changing market. Companies need different kinds of engineers and scientists to produce an electric, self-driven car than for an emissions-cheating diesel vehicle.
 The German government still vigorously defends the interests of the car industry in Brussels, but the politics of the car has changed over the past 15 years. The number of cheated car buyers in Germany now vastly outnumbers the number of auto workers.

The digital native is a myth The younger generation uses technology in the same ways as older people — and is no better at multitasking.


Some people put the cut-off at 1984, but for most it is 1980. People born after that date are the digital natives; those born before are digital immigrants, doomed to be forever strangers in a computer-based strange land.
 The generational difference between the groups goes beyond their numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers: it can also help to explain differences in how they buy insurance. At least, that’s according to a report released this week for the insurance industry. Targeting Millennials with Insurance explains that young people aren’t like those who came before and queued passively for cover. They “prioritize holidays”, for one, which might surprise some of them. Because they are digital natives, they “will favor technologically innovative insurance policies”.

Cars Suck Up Data About You. Where Does It All Go?

John Quain:

What Can Be Collected?
 Government rules limit how event data recorders — the black boxes in cars that record information such as speed and seatbelt position in the seconds before, during and after a crash — can be used. But no single law in the United States covers all the data captured by all the other devices in automobiles.
 Those devices include radar sensors, diagnostic systems, in-dash navigation systems and built-in cellular connections. Newer cars may record a driver’s eye movements, the weight of people in the front seats and whether the driver’s hands are on the wheel. Smartphones connected to the car, and those not connected to the car, can also track your activities, including any texting while driving.

It’s a car! It’s a plane! Actually it’s both at the EAA AirVenture

Meg Jones:

Standing on the stage at AirVenture’s Theater in the Woods under video screens showing what Uber Elevate would look like, Jeff Holden explained that in a few years people will pull out their phone, tap the Uber icon and instead of pushing the button picturing a car, they’ll push a plane button.
 “Urban mobility is not a solved problem. Many cities are gridlocked; some workers have no way to get to their jobs,” said Holden. “Think about the day when Uber Air starts and you push a button to get a flight.”
 Uber isn’t going to build or engineer the new vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. Instead, it’s partnering with aircraft manufacturers including Embraer, Mooney, Pipistrel and Bell Helicopter.
 What it won’t be is a helicopter, which Uber is ruling out for noise and safety reasons.
 The company has so far signed agreements with Dallas and Dubai to build landing pads using existing helicopter routes and eventually have so many that it will be easy to get around, perhaps with Uber car drivers to take people to their final destination.
 Holden said Uber plans to launch Elevate test flights in 2020 and start moving paying customers to their destinations in 2023. The company hasn’t set a price for Elevate rides, but Holden said as more routes and aircraft are added, it will likely become cheaper.
 “We’re very ambitious. We want this all over,” said Holden.

Steve Bannon Wants Facebook and Google Regulated Like Utilities

Ryan Grim:

TECH COMPANIES LIKE Facebook and Google that have become essential elements of 21st-century life should be regulated as utilities, top White House adviser Steve Bannon has argued, according to three people who’ve spoken to him about the issue.
 Bannon’s push for treating essential tech platforms as utilities pre-dates the Democratic “Better Deal” that was released this week. “Better Deal,” the branding for Democrats’ political objectives, included planks aimed at breaking up monopolies in a variety of sectors, suggesting that anti-monopoly politics is on the rise on both the right and left.
 Bannon’s basic argument, as he has outlined it to people who’ve spoken with him, is that Facebook and Google have become effectively a necessity in contemporary life. Indeed, there may be something about an online social network or a search engine that lends itself to becoming a natural monopoly, much like a cable company, a water and sewer system, or a railroad. The sources recounted the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give the accounts on record, and could face repercussions for doing so.

Ford Trucks celebrate 100 years as America’s workhorse icon

Mark Phelan:

He intended the Model TT for farmers, another tool like the Fordson tractors he built for the rural life he idealized. He would’ve tipped his straw boater hat back, squinted and laughed in your face if you told him the F-series pickup that’s the direct descendant of his Model TT would become America’s best-selling vehicle for 35 years straight.

The Apple Car could run traditional automakers off the road

Vitaliy N. Katsenelson:

I had this “Aha!” moment recently when I visited a Tesla TSLA+1.56% store and saw its cars’ power train. It looks just like a skateboard — basically a flat slab of metal (which houses the battery), four wheels, and an electric engine the size of a large watermelon. That’s it — the Tesla has only 18 moving parts.
 Wall Street nowadays is going gaga over the stocks of auto dealerships (especially after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Van Tuyl Group) and automakers. I am in the minority in thinking that party will come to an end. Just like Tesla, Apple is not going to be using a dealership model to sell its cars. Just as with the iPhone, the company will want complete control of the buying experience.
 If both Tesla and Apple bypass the dealership model, the GMs of the world will be at an even larger competitive disadvantage. They will have to abandon the dealership model too. Yes, I know, selling cars directly to consumers is not legal in many states, but if the U.S. Constitution could be amended 27 times, the law on car sales (which is an artifact of the Great Depression) can be amended as well. The traditional dealership model is unlikely to survive anyway, as its economics dramatically degrade in the electric-car world. A car with few moving parts and minimal electronics has few things to break. Consequently, electric cars will need less servicing, throttling the dealerships’ most important profit center.