Clean energy’s dirty secret: Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems

The Economist:

ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. Yet something remarkable is happening. From being peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs are making them competitive with fossil fuels. BP, an oil firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global energy supply over the next 20 years. It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power. About time, too.
 
 There is a $20trn hitch, though. To get from here to there requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades, to replace old smog-belching power plants and to upgrade the pylons and wires that bring electricity to consumers. Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because it offers reliable returns. Yet green energy has a dirty secret. The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source. That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free future, during which many generating technologies, clean and dirty, need to remain profitable if the lights are to stay on. Unless the market is fixed, subsidies to the industry will only grow.

Electric carmakers on battery alert after funds stockpile cobalt

Henry Sanderson.

Users get message about Susan Fowler when trying to delete Uber

Jack Morse:

Some Uber users trying to delete the app are getting a notification from the company specifically mentioning the allegations of sexual harassment detailed over the weekend in a blog post by former employee Susan Fowler Rigetti.
 
 A screenshot of one such interaction, confirmed to Mashable as authentic by an Uber spokesperson, demonstrates the lengths to which the company is going to assure fleeing customers that “what [Fowler] describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.”

Saving 80% in 90 Seconds? | Lemonade

Lemonade:

A report by IBNR Weekly, one of the most respected publications in insurance, alarmed many industry-insiders:
 
 
 “In an attempt to better understand Lemonade’s “killer” pricing, we “applied” for renters insurance through the Lemonade and Bungalow websites… the pricing was dramatically different as Bungalow’s annual price was ~5.6x Lemonade.” (IBNR Weekly, September 29, 2016)
 
 Incumbents find the idea of a 560% price gap unsettling. Understandably. Beyond self-preservation jitters, some raised concerns about Lemonade’s ‘killer prices’ looking a lot like ‘suicidal prices.’ After all, they reasoned, insurance companies pay out in claims over 40% of the fees they collect. So if Lemonade charges 80% less (same as saying others charge 5x more) Lemonade will be paying out in claims more than it receives in premiums! Lemonade must be recklessly naïve or worse, they surmised, and insolvency just a matter of time.
 
 I get it. That’s why I’m writing this post.

The race for autonomous cars is over. Silicon Valley lost

John McElroy:

To paraphrase Elon Musk, Silicon Valley is learning that “Making rockets is hard, but making cars is really hard.” People outside of the auto industry tend to have a shallow understanding of how complex the business really is. They think all you have to do is design a car and start making it. But most startups never make it past the concept car stage because the move to mass production proves too daunting. Even Tesla, the only successful automotive company to come out of Silicon Valley so far, made but 80,000 cars last year and it’s been in business for nearly 15 years.

From Netflix to rented homes, why are we less interested in ownership?

Ian Leslie:

In 2008 the anthropologist Daniel Miller published a book based on an intimate study of 30 households on a single street in south London. The Comfort of Things ­explored the different kinds of relationships people have with what they own.
 
 Miller described a retired couple’s house, cluttered with furniture, framed photographs and knick-knacks accumulated over decades. Down the road, a self-employed man called Malcolm had rented a flat. Malcolm preferred a spartan existence: he kept his belongings in storage, the better to travel at short notice, and conducted as much as possible of his life online. His home was his email address. His central material possession was his laptop.

Norway is reaching tipping point for electric vehicles as market share reaches record breaking 37%

Fred Lambert:

We were talking just the other day about how slow it is to change the automotive market because of its gigantic size. With around 2 billion cars on the roads around the world and an annual production capacity of roughly 100 million cars, it takes 20 years to update the global fleet. It means that once all new cars sold are equipped with a new technology, like electric propulsion, it can take up to 20 years to refresh the fleet.
 
 Of course, some markets will get there before others. Electric vehicles currently have difficulties reaching 3% market share in most countries. Norway has long been the exception to the rule and it is now breaking more market share records.

Why leave Europe’s car market? So many reasons.

Christian Hetzner:

“Europe is not only an incredibly competitive and crowded market, it’s also an incredibly complex market: 31 countries each with their own regulations and taxation regime,” Kia Europe operations chief Michael Cole told Automotive News, fresh from unveiling the brand’s next-generation Picanto mini-car here.
 
 Questioned by European Union parliamentarians about the patchwork of car taxes, Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici admitted last March that the problem was a “source of high administrative burden for citizens,” but past legislative proposals to fix this “did not obtain the required unanimous support of member states.”
 
 Financial reporting practices also differ: U.S. carmakers break out their results by region, creating instant yet often ugly transparency — particularly when losses in Europe ballooned in 2013. Many companies, however, don’t bother informing investors whether their operations in Europe are in the red, including potential Opel owner PSA Group. Volkswagen, for example, did away with regional accounting 10 years ago in favor of global results by brand, helping to conceal its chronic losses in North America.

My New Electric Car Is Really Like a Phone

Steven Sinofsky:

When I first got in the Prius in 2001 the dealership kept me there for 4 hours “teaching” me how to drive and own the car as though it was some exotic device. It came with a plastic reference card to use if I valet parked the car. I had to watch video tapes. It was pretty crazy since by and large other than regenerative braking it was just a car.
 
 The Bolt is totally different but they just send you off. I loved that. (OK, it is a Detroit car maker so I spent like 3 hours in the finance cave dealing with that, but I digress).
 There are like 5 screens about energy usage. The biggest learning (and sort of a less than positive surprise) is that climate control is like 15% of energy usage. So you sit in the car in traffic having Apollo 13 moments by turning off features and seeing the car range go up or down. On a full charge I drop from a high of 238 to 216 by turning off the climate system and radio. This all reminds me of the first Prius owners that talked about driving without shoes so you could feel if the car was on battery or combustion. This craziness will pass as it did with Hybrids.

U.S. household debt near record levels, Federal Reserve report says

Ed Adamczyk:

Total U.S. household debt climbed to a near-record $12.58 trillion by the end of 2016, a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report says.
 
 February’s 33-page “Quarterly Report of Household Debt and Credit” shows that every category of debt measured — including mortgages, credit cards, student loans and auto loans — saw an increase. The total increase of $460 billion in 2016 was the largest in a decade. Mortgage balances, now at $8.48 trillion, made up 67 percent of the household debt.

U.S. motor vehicle deaths see biggest two year jump in over 50 years

Darrell Etherington:

Deaths resulting from motor vehicle crashes are at their highest in nearly a decade, according to preliminary data released by the National Safety Council on Wednesday. The increase for 2016 combines with the jump in 2015 to add up to the largest two-year increase in motor vehicle-related deaths in 53 years, an increase NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman noted in a release is at least partly attributable to “complacency” on the part of drivers.
 
 The preliminary numbers from the NSC aren’t final, and the organization says that it’ll experience slight increases or decreases as more data comes in and more analysis is performed. But the estimates usually don’t see dramatic shifts, so you can expect their early estimate of roughly 40,000 motor vehicle deaths in 2016 to remain consistent. The tally represents a 6 percent increase over last year, and a 14 percent bump when compared to the numbers from two years ago in 2014.

Didi Drivers Forced to Live in Shanty Town After China Crackdown

Tom Mackenzie:

China’s ride-sharing boom was once seen as a path to prosperity for thousands of drivers. However, a government crackdown on an industry dominated by Didi Chuxing has brought that dream to a screeching halt.
 
 In Beijing and other major cities, non-resident drivers are now banned. That’s left many struggling to pay off loans they’d taken out to buy cars.
 
 Drivers must therefore take the risk of getting nabbed without the right permit by staying on the roads. Now struggling for money, many live in a drab row of concrete homes known by locals as “Didi village.” Its paths are filled with trash and there’s an outdoor toilet, but the rent is cheap.

Daimler to convert engine production to electric at its largest factory, fewer workers required causing labor issues

Fred Lambert:

Daimler has ambitious plans for electric vehicle production. It is among the few major automakers that not only have accepted the transition to fully electric propulsion in the auto industry, but who have also committed to converting production assets currently dedicated to internal combustion engine production. That’s a difficult move for large legacy automakers.
 
 In one of its biggest move toward that goal, the company announced today plans for its major Untertürkheim plant to produce electric motors in a deal with workers.

Electrifying a Nation’s Cars

Claus Hecking:

A disused factory complex in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen could hold the key to 21st-century carmaking.
 
 The location, now being prepared at top speed, will be the headquarters and main production location for FMC. Remember the name: with the backing of three huge Chinese conglomerates, and led by two leading German auto executives, FMC—Future Mobility Corporation—wants to conceive and build the world’s first truly mass-market electric car. The future of mobility, they say, will be born in China.
 
 “We want to be the Apple of the car industry,” says Carsten Breitfeld, FMC’s German chief executive. Some may scoff at the grandiose claims: FMC is less than a year old, has no factory, and hasn’t produced a single car.

A Low-Cost Solution to Traffic

William Fulton:

Urbanites generally consider Austin the coolest city in Texas, if not America. It has a great university, great music, hip and trendy restaurants and bars, unique shops and a booming tech economy. It also has god-awful traffic for a city its size.
 
 Metro Austin has 2 million people. All of them seem to be driving on Interstate 35 all the time. Getting across town east-west is even worse because there’s really no main route. Bus service is just OK, and there’s only one light rail line. (Voters shot down an expansion of the rail system a couple of years ago.)
 
 No matter how cool it is — and how urban its core may be — Austin is really just an overgrown suburb. And it’s not the only one. Nashville has many of the same problems. Atlanta’s traffic problems are legendary. And in Southern California, Orange County may be an economic powerhouse, but it’s also a transportation backwater with the same population as neighboring San Diego but only half as many freeway miles.

Ford Investing $1 Billion in Startup Founded By Two Autonomous Car Pioneers

Dana Hull:

Ford Motor Co. is investing $1 billion in a months-old startup founded by two pioneers in the nascent autonomous vehicle sector.
 
 The Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence company Argo AI will develop the brains — specifically, a virtual driver system — for the fully autonomous vehicles Ford has promised to bring to market in 2021. Founders Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander are former leaders of the self-driving car teams at Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Uber Technologies Inc.
 
 “This is a unique partnership,” Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive officer, said in an interview. “A lot of tech companies are looking for customers and a lot of OEMs are looking for technology partners. We are getting expertise, and Argo AI is getting a customer in Ford.”
 
 Ford’s investment, planned for over the next five years, reflects how hot the race for autonomous vehicles is within an industry facing other seismic shifts including electrification and ride-sharing. Self-driving vehicle startups are emerging at a frenetic pace after General Motors Co. and Uber valued upstarts — each with just a few dozen employees — as worth hundreds of millions of dollars in separate acquisitions last year.
 
 Salesky, who worked on the self-driving car project at Google, and Rander, who held a similar role at Uber, have no other backers. Argo AI will function as a subsidiary of Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, though the startup will be independent and offer equity to engineers, said Raj Nair, Ford’s executive vice president of global product development and its chief technical officer.

Avis Budget Group signs agreement with Uber Technologies

Reuters:

* Avis Budget Group Inc – program will be initially launched in Boston Source text for Eikon: Further company coverage:

Tesla Model S & Nissan LEAF Clocked As World’s Best-Selling Electric Cars In 2016

Zachary Shahan:

The point isn’t just to get giddy about Tesla again — the point is that it shows how effective and even critical this 100% electric, from-the-ground-up, high-end-models-first, full-EV-ecosystem approach has been. Where would the rest of the EV market be if Tesla hadn’t pushed it forward? Where would the rest of the market be if one of the most desirable cars in history wasn’t a fully electric car?
 
 Similarly, the LEAF targeted a lower class when it was introduced in 2011, but the “from-the-ground-up” approach continues to carry it forward at the top of the electric car sales charts.

Autonomous Vehicles and the End of Privacy

Ernest Oppetit:

Everything, everywhere, will soon be continuously recorded and uploaded to the internet. This will start with dense, urban areas, but over time every single square meter of every part of the globe will be recorded. Advances in computer vision & AI mean this data will be usable at scale, which will revolutionise advertising, law enforcement, and bring us back to a pre-privacy world.
 
 (and yes, you guessed it, the movie to pair this post with is Minority Report)

Electrifying insights: How automakers can drive electrified vehicle sales and profitability

McKinsey:

Automakers face a difficult challenge: They must strike the right balance between selling enough electrified vehicles (EVs) to comply with tightening regulatory fleet emissions and fuel economy targets, while preventing the incremental cost of adding costly battery packs to their vehicles from cannibalizing corporate profits. To compound matters, automakers cannot afford to lose focus on combustion engine models, which are often more profitable. Against this backdrop, our latest report provides fresh insights and potential solutions.
 
 Within this report, McKinsey is releasing new findings from a global survey on consumer attitudes toward EVs that include plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. Our analysis reveals current pent-up consumer demand for EVs with some stubborn and well known barriers, but also provocative and unexpected opportunities. The report highlights three key messages:

The Self-Driving Car’s Bicycle Problem

Peter Fairley:

Robotic cars are great at monitoring other cars, and they’re getting better at noticing pedestrians, squirrels, and birds. The main challenge, though, is posed by the lightest, quietest, swerviest vehicles on the road.
 
 “Bicycles are probably the most difficult detection problem that autonomous vehicle systems face,” says UC Berkeley research engineer Steven Shladover.
 
 Nuno Vasconcelos, a visual computing expert at the University of California, San Diego, says bikes pose a complex detection problem because they are relatively small, fast and heterogenous. “A car is basically a big block of stuff. A bicycle has much less mass and also there can be more variation in appearance — there are more shapes and colors and people hang stuff on them.”

The Land That GM Forgot

David Fickling:

U.S. automakers’ failure to sell their cars in Japan has been a gripe for Detroit since the Carter administration. Another round of whingeing looks set to begin.”It’s not fair,” the Nikkei Asian Review quoted President Donald Trump as telling a meeting of chief executives at the White House Monday. “They do things to us that make it impossible to sell cars in Japan.”On the numbers, he appears to have a point. Ford Motor Co. announced last year it was pulling out of Japan, saying the nation was the most closed developed auto market in the world.General Motors Co. is an even smaller presence. Its mighty Buick marque typically sells fewer units in Japan than Morgan Motor Co., a family business based in an English spa town that hand-builds about 1,300 Jazz Age-styled cars a year.Only Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV does better, with its Jeep brand selling more models in Japan than GM and Ford put together. But SUVs are a rare presence on Japanese roads, so that makes Detroit’s third player a decent-sized fish in a very small puddle.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a different explanation for U.S. automakers’ failure to compete: They’re simply not trying. They don’t advertise on television, exhibit at the Tokyo Motor Show, or even make much effort to build vehicles for Japan’s right-hand-drive market, he said Monday.They also have to battle consumer perceptions that they’re costly and poor quality, something for which the government can’t really be blamed.The truth is largely on Abe’s side. While the U.S. has a 2.5 percent tariff on all passenger car imports and imposes 25 percent on trucks, Japan removed its last levies on auto imports almost four decades ago.Imports are certainly a small share of the market, but they’re on the rise — going from about 4.5 percent of sales in 2012 to 5.9 percent last year.

This is where AI could help, reckon Xuewei Qi, Matthew Barth and their colleagues at the University of California, Riverside. They are developing a system of energy management which uses a piece of AI that can learn from past experience. Their algorithm works by breaking the trip down into small segments, each of which might be less than a minute long, as the journey progresses. In each segment the system checks to see if the vehicle has encountered the same driving situations before, using data ranging from traffic information to the vehicle’s speed, location, time of day, the gradient of the road, the battery’s present state of charge and the engine’s rate of fuel consumption. If the situation is similar, it employs the same energy-management strategy that it used previously for the next segment of the journey. For situations that it has not encountered before, the system estimates what the best power control might be and adds the results to its database for future reference. Ultimately, the idea is that the algorithm will also learn from the experiences of its brethren in other cars, by arranging for all such systems to share their data online.

The Economist:

This is where AI could help, reckon Xuewei Qi, Matthew Barth and their colleagues at the University of California, Riverside. They are developing a system of energy management which uses a piece of AI that can learn from past experience.
 
 Their algorithm works by breaking the trip down into small segments, each of which might be less than a minute long, as the journey progresses. In each segment the system checks to see if the vehicle has encountered the same driving situations before, using data ranging from traffic information to the vehicle’s speed, location, time of day, the gradient of the road, the battery’s present state of charge and the engine’s rate of fuel consumption. If the situation is similar, it employs the same energy-management strategy that it used previously for the next segment of the journey. For situations that it has not encountered before, the system estimates what the best power control might be and adds the results to its database for future reference. Ultimately, the idea is that the algorithm will also learn from the experiences of its brethren in other cars, by arranging for all such systems to share their data online.

P&G To Online Ad World: We’ve Had Enough

Bob Hoffman:

Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest ad spender, apparently came out with guns blazing at agencies and media on Sunday at the Inactive, oops, Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual “leadership” conference.
 
 Bravo to P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard for giving the corrupt, fraud-laden, sneaky creeps running the online media world a nice healthy ass-whooping. According to a story in Ad Age, Pritchard told the group…

Tesla Isn’t the Only Automaker Getting Close to Full Automation

Dyani Sabin:.

Solar Employs More People In U.S. Electricity Generation Than Oil, Coal And Gas Combined

Niall McCarthy:

In the United States, more people were employed in solar power last year than in generating electricity through coal, gas and oil energy combined. According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy, solar power employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent. It’s a welcome statistic for those seeking to refute Donald Trump’s assertion that green energy projects are bad news for the American economy.
 
 Just under 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, according to the report, while coal, gas and oil power generation combined had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000. The boom in the country’s solar workforce can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity. The gulf in employment is growing with net generation from coal falling 53 percent over the last decade. During the same period, electricity generation from natural gas increased 33 percent while solar expanded 5,000 percent.

Growth vs. Profits: Uber’s Cash Burn Dilemma

Wharton:

As global ride-hailing startup Uber heads toward a possible IPO this year, Wall Street’s eyes will be on its financials. Revenues have continued to grow quickly for the eight-year-old Silicon Valley company, but the bottom line isn’t pretty: Uber was on track to lose about $3 billion in 2016 on net revenue of $5.5 billion, according to Bloomberg News. That’s remarkable for a startup that has raised more than $11 billion with scant capital costs — it does not own a global fleet of cars or much of other hard assets. Uber itself is valued at more than $60 billion.
 
 Can Uber slow its rate of cash burn before losses start to threaten the company’s viability? On the surface, stemming the red ink doesn’t sound so hard. Since it does not own vehicles or employ drivers, the company saves a fortune in capital and workforce costs. But Wharton experts point to other substantial costs: In helping to create an innovative new market — the sharing economy — Uber spent a fortune training, recruiting and subsidizing drivers, giving away free rides so consumers would get hooked on the service, setting up a global system of local and regional offices as well as hiring lawyers to deal with lawsuits and regulators.
 
 “I think Uber thought, ‘We have this platform — this app, this technology — that can be leveraged anywhere in the world, so let’s just go and conquer the world,’” says Wharton management professor Exequiel Hernandez, who wrote two case studies on Uber for his classes, based on interviews with executives. “What Uber underestimated were the costs that didn’t have to do with their technology and their business model, costs that have to do with the politics of being legitimate, [addressing] regulatory resistance and even cultural differences across markets.”

Charged by the Sun

Sono Motors

Sion is the first electric production car capable of recharging its batteries from the sun. So now, you’ll never have to worry about range.

Starbucks says popularity of its mobile app has created long lines at pickup counters & led to drop in transactions.

Wall St

Starbucks Corp. says it has become a victim of the success of its mobile order app.
 
 The coffee chain created the app to reduce long lines at the cash register, but Starbucks Operating Chief Kevin Johnson said Thursday the lines have just shifted to the pickup counter.
 
 “The success of mobile order-and-pay has created a new challenge,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview.
 
 Mr. Johnson, who will become chief executive in April when Howard Schultz steps down to focus on building high-end Starbucks stores, said long waits have driven away some potential customers. The number of transactions in the company’s fiscal first quarter were down as a result.

Internet Health Report

Internet health report:

The Internet is an ecosystem. A living entity that billions of people depend on for knowledge, livelihood, self-expression, love…. The health of this system relies on – and influences – everyone it touches. Signs of poor health in any part impacts the whole. We’re all connected.
 How healthy is our Internet? How might we understand and diagnose it? We believe this is a timely and necessary conversation, and we hope you’ll join in.
 Our individual actions shape the health of the Internet ecosystem. Only by recognizing where the system is healthy can we take positive steps to make it stronger. Only by understanding where it’s at risk can we avoid actions that weaken it.

“So if we’re not careful, we’ll only be responsible for the windows, seats and wheels.”

Guy Chazan:

Peter Altmaier, her chief of staff, spelt out the dangers at a panel debate in Berlin in November. Would Germany still lead the automobile industry when the world shifts to self-driving, electric cars and software overtakes engines as a vehicle’s most important component? “In the future, 50-60 per cent of the value of a car will consist of digital devices and tools, and 20 per cent of batteries,” he said. “So if we’re not careful, we’ll only be responsible for the windows, seats and wheels.”

That fear is spreading across the broader auto industry, but it is felt acutely in Germany where the sector is one of the largest employers. Suppliers are affected as much as the vehicle manufacturers. “If you look at all the companies that make car parts — the transmission, gearboxes, clutches, pistons — they’re all in a difficult spot right now,” says one Frankfurt-based banker. “People don’t want to invest in them because they are not sure there will be any demand for these things in future.”

Pics and Info: Inside the Tesla 100kWh Battery Pack

wk057′s SkieNET

There have been tons of rumors flying around how what changes Tesla had made to increase the capacity so drastically. Rumors of new cooling patents, increased voltage, new cell double bond wiring, incompatible with older cars, and all sorts of things.
 
 Personally, I figured Tesla wouldn’t reinvent the wheel just yet and go with a whole new pack design, but who knows. Not me, so that had to be corrected. :D
 
 Without further ado, here is a shot of a module from the 100 kWh pack.

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on Self-Driving Cars and the Reality of Full Autonomy

Evan Ackerman:

After wrapping up the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2015, Gill Pratt helped to launch the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which is investing over a billion dollars in robotics and artificial intelligence over the next five years. As you might expect, a major focus of TRI is automotive autonomy: Toyota is just as interested as any automotive manufacturer at using autonomous systems to make cars safer, more efficient, and more pleasant to drive.
 
 At Toyota’s CES press conference earlier this month, Pratt took the stage to address some of the challenges facing anyone working on automotive autonomy. There are many of these, and frequently, the amount of progress that the industry is making towards full autonomy is misunderstood, or even occasionally misrepresented. With that in mind, he spent a solid 20 minutes giving the audience a much needed reality check.

The car can explain

Gerald Sussman, Hal Abelson, Lalana Kagal, Daniel Weitzner:

When humans and autonomous systems share control of a vehicle, there will be some explaining to do. When the autonomous system takes over suddenly, the driver will ask why. When an accident happens in a car that is co-driven by a person and a machine, police officials, insurance companies, and the people who are harmed will want to know who or what is accountable for the accident. Control systems in the vehicle should be able to give an accurate unambiguous accounting of the events. Explanations will have to be simple enough for users to understand even when subject to cognitive distractions. At the same time, given the need for legal accountability and technical integrity these systems will have to support their basic explanations with rigorous and reliable detail. In the case of hybrid human-machine systems, we will want to know how the human and mechanical parts contributed to final results such as accidents or other unwanted behaviors.
 
 The ability to provide coherent explanations of complex behavior is also important in the design and debugging of such systems, and it is essential to give us all confidence in the competence and integrity of our automatic helpers. But the mechanisms of merging measurements with qualitative models can also enable more sophisticated control strategies than are currently feasible.
 
 Our research explores the development of methodology and supporting technology for combining qualitative and semi-quantitative models with measured data to produce concise, understandable symbolic explanations of actions that are taken by a system that is built out of many, possibly autonomous, parts (including the human operator).
 
 We have currently developed a two-step process to explain what happened and why those events happened in a particular vehicle CAN bus log. In the first step, we take a CAN bus log as input to begin an analysis of what happened during a particular car trip. This analysis includes smoothing noisy data, performing edge detection to find out when particular events occurred (e.g. when did the operator apply the brakes), and interval analysis to see how particular intervals relate to each other (e.g. did the car slow after the brakes were applied?). Using this analysis, we were able to construct a story of what happened in a particular car trip and detect particular events of interest (e.g abrupt changes in speed and braking, and dangerous maneuvers like skids).
 
 In the second step, we take a particular event of interest (that was identified in step 1) and explain why it happened. We have developed three different models to explain vehicle physics in a human readable form. We have constructed a model of the car internals, which explains the process by which individual components of the car affect other components. We have also constructed a purely qualitative physical model of the car, which explains vehicle actions using qualitative terms like increasing, decreasing, no change, and unknown change. While this model is easy for humans to understand, it lacks the level of detail needed to explain more sophisticated actions like skids. So we have also developed a semi-qualitative model of car physics using geometry. This model infers the overall effect on the normal forces and frictional forces on the wheels from the reported lateral and longitudinal acceleration during a particular interval. Then, these effects and their consequences are explained qualitatively to the user.

Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars

Rodney Brooks:

A few blocks further away from where I live is a somewhat different environment, a commercial shopping, bar, and restaurant area (with the upper floors occupied by M.I.T. spin-off startups), known as Central Square^{\big 3}. There are marked pedestrian crossings there, and mostly people stick to crossing the roads at those designated places. Things are a little less civil here, perhaps because more people driving through are not local residents from right around the neighborhood.
 
 People step out tentatively into the marked cross walks and visually check whether on-coming drivers are slowing down, or indicate in some way that they have seen the pedestrian. During the day it easy to see into the cars and get an idea of what the driver is paying attention to, and the same is actually true at night as there is enough ambient light around to see into most cars. Pedestrians and drivers mostly engage in a little social interaction, and any lack of interaction is usually an indicator to the pedestrian that the driver has not seen them. And when such a driver barrels through the crossing the pedestrians get angry and yell at the car, or even lean their hands out in front of the car to show the driver how angry they are.
 
 Interestingly, many pedestrians reward good behavior by drivers. Getting on the main street or off of the main street from or onto a small side street can often be tricky for a driver. There are often so many people on the sidewalks that there is a constant flow of foot traffic crossing the exits or entrances of the side streets. Drivers have to be patient and ready for a long wait to find a break. Often pedestrians who have seen how patient a driver is being will voluntarily not step into the cross walk, and either with a head or hand signal indicate to a driver that they should head through the crossing. And if the driver doesn’t respond they make the signal again–the pedestrian has given the turn to the driver and expects them to take it.

When Their Shifts End, Uber Drivers Set Up Camp in Parking Lots Across the U.S.

Eric Newcomer and Olivia Zaleski:

Forty years later, German Tugas, a 42-year-old Uber driver, got to know it for another reason: Its parking lot was a safe spot to sleep in his car. Most weeknights, Tugas drives over 70 hours a week in San Francisco, where the work is steadier and fares are higher than in his hometown, Sacramento. So every Monday morning, Tugas leaves at 4 a.m., says goodbye to his wife and four daughters, drives 90 miles to the city, and lugs around passengers until he earns $300 or gets too tired to keep going. (Most days he nets $230 after expenses like gas.) Then, he and at least a half dozen other Uber drivers gathered in the Social Safeway parking lot to sleep in their cars before another long day of driving.

Wal-Mart muscles into auto sales

Hannah Lutz

CarSaver’s digital platform allows car shoppers to select, finance and insure a vehicle through its website or on a touch-screen kiosk, backed by bilingual auto advisers available by phone. Staffers at CarSaver Centers — set up inside Wal-Mart stores across from checkout lanes and alongside other services, such as vision centers and nail salons — will explain the car-buying program to Wal-Mart customers.
 
 Customers will be able to select a new, used or certified pre-owned vehicle and apply for financing and auto insurance on the kiosk at the CarSaver Center, on their mobile device via CarSaver’s website or by calling an 800 number.
 
 CarSaver then will connect customers with a local, certified dealer and schedule an appointment to visit the dealership. If a shopper doesn’t contact the dealership, an auto adviser reconnects with that shopper.
 
 Upon making a sale, the dealership pays CarSaver a “success fee” of $350 in most states. No sale, no payment to CarSaver. Depending on state law, payment may come in the form of a subscription fee.

Bosch debuts the modular, scalable, and compact eAxle

Jonathan Gitlin:

The annual North American International Auto Show, unlike most similar events in the US, is remarkably well attended by automotive suppliers as well as major OEMs like Bosch. The tier one supplier used the latest show to debut its new eAxle, a compact unit that’s modular and scalable in design.
 
 As you’ll see in the video, the eAxle really is a lot more compact than combining the company’s current individual systems together. “We can realize five-to-ten percent efficiency over standalone components when we move to an integrated unit,” explained Bosch’s Jon Poponea. Look in an electric vehicle on the roads right now, and you’ll probably see a whole bunch of different components, all connected with thick orange-wrapped leads.
 
 But the eAxle packages the inverter together with the motor/generator unit, making for easier packaging, fewer wires, and decreased manufacturing costs. The lowest power output version is 50kW (67hp), but it can be specced up to 300kW (402hp). What’s more, it can also be had as either a permanent magnet or induction motor. Poponea explained that the former is more common to rear axle installations, the latter as a front axle motor providing boost to the powertrain. “It comes down to OEM strategy, and we can certainly support that,” he told Ars.
 
 Bosch certainly thinks there’s a market for the eAxle. It cited internal research that “showed 62 percent of US new car buyers believe they will own at least one full-electric vehicle in their household within 10 years or less,” although interestingly it also noted a significant minority of holdouts—32 percent indicating they would not be interested in buying or leasing an EV within the next 15 years.

Why I don’t Believe in Uber’s Success

Benjamin Encz

Interesting thoughts! So you think the investors and all folks in the tech industry that are bullish on Uber are wrong? What do you think will happen to the company?
 
 I don’t see a success scenario for Uber in the case in which self-driving cars become mass market ready in the near future. Of the services that Uber is currently offering, I can only see one that could end up successful: ride sharing.
 
 Assuming Uber continues to build a large network of drivers & riders they might be able to offer shared rides that are cheap and generate a profit. When Uber Pool works well, it becomes a viable alternative to using public transportation or to owning your own car. Does this outlook justify Uber’s latest valuation of $68 billion?
 
 Without running the numbers myself, I doubt it4. And I can’t imagine investors would be satisfied with Uber focusing on becoming a ride-sharing company. So Uber might be in a similar situation to Twitter – it could offer a good, profitable service if it weren’t for it’s sky high valuation and ambition.

Social Media Agency Of The Year Award For Not Doing Social Media

Bob:

But if you want to work in our business you can’t just come out and say that. You need to hide it under steaming piles of jargon. Otherwise, you might lose your job for being “traditional.”

No, you have to do what MediaPost does — take the obvious and make it incomprehensible.

Anyone with a pulse and an IQ above 20 knows that social media marketing is largely a pile of horseshit and the only way to get any value out of Facebook is to buy ads.

Car Dealers Are Dangerously Uneducated About New Safety Features

Aarian Marshall:

If you go by the news coming out of CES and the Detroit auto show, the future of driving is luminescent. Cars are getting safer, swankier, smarter. But between showcase and wide, open road, there’s a transaction process stubbornly rooted in the 20th century: actually selling these things at the car dealership.

That’s a problem, and not just because nobody enjoys haggling with the sales folks. By virtue of their entrenched position between automaker and consumer, dealers aren’t just responsible for selling new cars to people. They’re the ones who have to explain those cars, and how to use their myriad, confusing, wonderful new features. And, to the surprise of nobody who’s spent time in a dealership lately, they’re sometimes lousy teachers.

Cartapping: How Feds Have Spied On Connected Cars For 15 Years

Thomas Fox-Brewster:

The rapid spread of connected devices that can listen and locate has been a boon for law enforcement. Any new technology hooked up to the web has the potential to become a surveillance device, even if it’s original purpose was benign, as shown in a 2016 Arkansas murder investigation where Amazon was asked to hand over audio from a suspect’s Echo.
 
 But such information and much more, I’ve learned, has long been retrievable from cars. Indeed, court documents reveal a 15-year history of what’s been dubbed “cartapping,” where almost real-time audio and location data can be retrieved when cops order vehicle tech providers to hand it over.
 
 One of the more recent examples can be found in a 2014 warrant that allowed New York police to trace a vehicle by demanding the satellite radio and telematics provider SiriusXM provide location information. The warrant, originally filed in 2014 but only recently unsealed (and published below in full), asked SiriusXM “to activate and monitor as a tracking device the SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio installed on the Target Vehicle for a period of 10 days.” The target was a Toyota 4-Runner wrapped up in an alleged illegal gambling enterprise.

How Electric Vehicles Could End Car Ownership as We Know It

Christopher Mims:

If I say “personal electric vehicle,” you might think “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” or maybe “exploding hoverboards.” You don’t think global transportation revolution.
 
 But in the past few years, with the convergence of better battery technology, lighter materials and smaller, more powerful electric motors, entirely new kinds of transportation have bloomed. The electric powertrain, unlike that of the internal combustion engine, scales smoothly from tiny to huge, powering everything from 10-pound electric skateboards to 20-ton electric buses.
 
 This Cambrian explosion of new vehicles enables two other revolutions: self-driving technology, and the shift from vehicle ownership to transportation as a service.

What if Uber kills off public transport rather than cars?

Greg Lindsay:

The perceived wisdom is that Uber has disrupted taxis and that private automobiles are next, but what if we’ve misread what is happening in our cities?

Traditional thinking would suggest that UberPool, which allows users to split the cost of trips with other Uber riders heading in the same direction, will always be inferior to public transport. Sitting in the backseat of a Prius may be more comfortable than standing on a crowded bus or train, continues this reasoning, but carpooling can’t substitute for mass transit at rush hours without massively increasing congestion.

This is wrong. In the last six months, Uber has begun offering shared rides for as little as $1 (81p), introduced optimised pickup points that algorithmically recreate bus stops, and started testing semi-autonomous vehicles it hopes will solve its increasingly contentious labour issues.

How time-saving technology destroys our productivity

Rory Sutherland:

In 1929 John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2029 people in the developed nations could enjoy a perfectly civilised standard of living while working for 16 hours a week. His hope was for our precious hours of extra leisure to be devoted to such edifying pursuits as playing Grand Theft Auto and watching kittens skateboarding on YouTube. (Actually he didn’t predict that bit — he suggested we’d be listening to string quartets and attending poetry recitals but, hey, that was the Bloomsbury Group for you.) Today, however, not only has the work week stayed constant but, in direct contradiction of the theory, the better-paid now work disproportionately longer hours.
 
 In 2008 some of the world’s leading economists contributed to a series of essays (Revisiting Keynes, MIT) discussing why Keynes’s dream now seems so wide of the mark. Between them, they furnished a number of competing theories. Some posited that people like working and that being busy now has the kind of social cachet that being leisured used to.

Mobile Fact Sheet

Pew Internet:

In contrast to the largely stationary internet of the early 2000s, Americans today are increasingly connected to the world of digital information while “on the go” via smartphones and other mobile devices. Explore the patterns and trends that have shaped the mobile revolution below.

Move Over Mobile Phone: The Next Ad Frontier is the Windshield

Alex Webb:

The next frontier in digital advertising may be your car’s windshield.

Automakers, technology companies and glass manufacturers are teaming up to turn the display that graces the front of an iPhone into the windshield of a car — one that can show ads, directions and vehicle information to the person behind the wheel.

The advent of connected cars is creating a new sales battleground, and using a vehicle’s windshield may be the next way to pitch more products and services to consumers. McKinsey & Co. estimates that mobile and data-driven services in autos will generate $1.5 trillion by 2030. At least part of that will be spent projecting information to drivers and passengers right before their eyes.

“When you think of a person driving and what your needs are when you’re on a typical trip, it’s food, it’s fuel and it’s rest stops,” said John Butler, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. “Owning the inside of the car is critical, it’s really where the money is made. The real value is locked up in the ad opportunity.”

78% of Global Smartphones Will be Sold to Replacement Buyers in 2017

Linda Sui:

According to the latest report from our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) services: Global Smartphone Sales by Replacement Sales vs. Sales to First Time Buyers by 88 Countries : 2013-2022, global smartphone replacement sales outweighed sales to first time buyers in 2013, for the first time ever. In 2017, we expect 78% of global smartphones will be sold to replacement buyers. We forecast replacement smartphone sales will continue to dominate smartphone sales across all 6 regions by 2022.
 
 This extensive report forecasts global smartphone sales by replacement sales and sales to first time smartphone buyers for 88 countries worldwide, from 2013 to 2022. Almost every major country worldwide is covered, including United States, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. This report can be used by operators, software developers, content developers, smartphone vendors, component makers, car manufacturers and other stakeholders to determine the distribution of smartphone ownership across the huge global smartphone market.

Facts and figures can be powerful weapons for technology’s giants

Alexandra Frean:

Uber’s decision this week to start releasing its traffic data from dozens of cities worldwide is a reminder that information can be as important to digital companies in shaping markets and creating value as the software and hardware used to access their services.
 
 Uber says that sharing average travel times gleaned from millions of trips will produce a public benefit. We can safely assume it is also acting for its own benefit. Not only is Uber probably hoping to buy loyalty from the city authorities with which it frequently clashes, it may also be seeking to gain a foothold in a key area of its business model presently outside its control: urban planning and traffic management.

Let’s Talk About Self-Driving Cars

Artur Kiulian:

I love everything about self-driving cars to the extent of even taking the Self-Driving Car Engineer Degree at Udacity. That’s why this particular video from the a16z Summit really caught my attention. Frank Chen (a16z partner) goes over the most commonly asked questions about autonomous cars and I’ve decided to dive deeper into each of those here on Medium.
 
 Level by level or straight to level five?
 The major assumption is that “Everything that moves will go autonomous”, and we are not only talking about cars, all the trucks on our roads, drones in the sky, shopping cars and even toys will move by itself to the extent that our involvement will become rudimentary, undesired or even illegal.