Taxi-Hailing Apps Take Root in Japan as SoftBank, Didi Join Fray

Pavel Alpeyev:

Using an app to order up a car ride isn’t common in Japan, even though ride-hailing has spread across the globe. That’s partly because finding a taxi usually isn’t difficult, unless it’s in the suburbs or there’s pouring rain during rush hour.
 
 SoftBank Group Corp. and China’s Didi Chuxing are the latest companies seeking to change that. They’re teaming up to introduce Didi Mobility Japan, a taxi-hailing platform that will start trials this year in Osaka, followed by Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Okinawa.
 
 Long dominated by taxis, Japan’s 1.7 trillion yen ($15 billion) car-transport industry is starting to show signs of change. Sony Corp. is working on a joint venture with cab companies called “Everybody’s Taxi.” Japan Taxi, the dispatch app run by the chairman of Nihon Kotsu Co., has also been actively promoting its services. Uber Technologies Inc. is starting a car-hailing pilot program in the remote island of Awaji. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, taxi operators are looking for ways to make it easier for customers to hail rides and get to their destinations.

Best Buy Should Be Dead, But It’s Thriving in the Age of Amazon

Susan Berfield and Matthew Boyl:

In Best Buy’s perfect world, all 380 of its new “in-home advisors” would park their clean, white Priuses in front of a customer’s house rather than in the driveway, where the car could block others. They would quickly appraise the neighborhood, survey the landscaping, and see if a security system is in place. After knocking gently on the front door, they would step back and stand to the right, smiling, head down slightly, arms uncrossed, name tag visible on their blue, wrinkle-free Best Buy polo shirts. They would shake hands firmly, avoiding the dead fish or the lobster claw.
 
 Once inside, they would offer to remove their shoes. They wouldn’t lean on the walls or place their Best Buy tablets on the furniture. If they noticed a cat, they would know better than to say they own a dog, and they definitely wouldn’t talk politics. The advisors would make customers comfortable by mimicking their conversational style and pace: If a customer talked with her hands, advisors would, too. They would have a tape measure with a laser, and they wouldn’t tease the cat with it. They wouldn’t knock on walls to determine where a stud was—they would use their stud finders—and they would never put the tool on their chest and say “beep.” That wouldn’t be amusing. “If you’re using that for rapport, start again,” says Bryan Bucknell, a self-proclaimed “longtime sales dude” at Best Buy Co. who’s training recruits for the program. He’s with his aspiring advisors—27 men and 9 women, uniformly enthusiastic in their blue shirts—in a windowless conference room at Best Buy’s headquarters outside Minneapolis, where they’ve come for the final session of a five-week initiation in late May.

Are SUVs Ruining Retirement Savings?

Ben Carlson:

By my calculations, we’re looking at an average MSRP in the range of $36.2k to $55.1k or an average monthly payment of roughly $608 to $924 (see my payment assumptions at the bottom of the table).
 
 This doesn’t include taxes and all of the crazy fees they charge you or the additional outlays for gas. And I’m going to assume it’s few and far between that actually pay the lowest MSRP because most people want all the bells and whistles.
 
 I also understand that most of these large SUVs I see all over the place are more than likely leased. That’s fine. It can lower your monthly payment a tad. And for those who would always like to be driving a new or like-new car, it probably does make more sense to lease rather than buy to avoid the hassle of resale and insane initial depreciation that exists with new cars.
 
 If you are going to buy new, the best option would be to make sure you buy a reliable car that can last long enough to see you through to a time where you have no car payments anymore. Here’s a list of the top 15 cars people hold onto for 15 years or longer:
 

$800 Million Says a Self-Driving Car Looks Like This

Ashlee Vance:

The mystery box sits inside an all-white room in an office building in San Francisco. It’s a large, wooden crate with no features other than the word “ZOOX” in big, black block letters and a sturdy-looking padlock. For about $100 million, you can get a key and have a look inside.
 
 Few have had the pleasure. What they saw is a black, carlike robot about the size and shape of a Mini Cooper. Or actually, like the rear halves of two Mini Coopers welded together. The interior has no steering wheel or dashboard, just an open space with two bench seats facing each other. The whole mock-up looks like someone could punch a hole through it. But because you’ve just invested $100 million in the thing, you’ve earned the right to have a seat and enjoy a simulated city tour while you pray that this vision of a driverless future will come to pass.
 
 Of the many self-driving car hopefuls, Zoox Inc. may be the most daring. The company’s robot taxi could be amazing or terrible. It might change the world—not in the contemporary Silicon Valley sense, but in a meaningful sense—or it might be an epic flop. At this point, it’s hard to tell how much of the sales pitch is real. Luckily for the company’s founders, there have been plenty of rich people excited to, as Hunter S. Thompson once put it, buy the ticket and take the ride.

“What do we need to offer to compete with car ownership?”

Kati Pohjanpalo:

After its first big marketing push about six months ago, Whim has grown to more than 45,000 users in the Helsinki region, of whom 5,100 pay monthly fees. There are two subscription packages: an all-inclusive 499 euros ($582.65), and a more modest 49 euros that gets you unlimited bus travel and short city bike rides, as well as cheaper taxis and rental cars. A pay-per-ride option also exists for those who want to try out the service.

To become financially viable, Whim needs from 3 to 5 percent of the area’s population to subscribe to a monthly package, according to Hietanen. That critical mass—almost 60,000 users in the Helsinki area—would allow the startup to buy transport services in bulk from the providers and turn a profit as it packages the options for its individual clients.

Sari Siikasalmi, a 37-year-old management consultant, is becoming a convert. She’s tried out Whim and is now weighing giving up the car. Her family, with two kids under the age of 10, uses public transport inside Helsinki but needs a larger sedan for ski trips.

To actually go through with the switch, Siikasalmi “would have to be sure that the type of cars we need are always and easily available nearby when we need them.” That’s not always the case yet.

Mobiliti acquires subscription service Condor Detroit

Anita Jibrell:

In a push to expand its subscription offerings into Michigan, app-based Mobiliti has acquired subscription service Condor Detroit.

The deal will bring approximately four people from Condor to Mobiliti, CEO Chance Richie told Automotive News, including Condor CEO Tarun Kajeepeta and Aaron Bedell, head of operations.

Richie declined to disclose transaction details, but said the deal was a “significant investment.”

Mobiliti, launched last year by entrepreneur couple Chance and Amanda Richie, brings dealers into the subscription service business and provides fleet service financing through its partnership with Ally Financial.

Mobiliti’s monthly subscription fees range from $550 to $1,200 and cover insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance.

How Tesla Stacks Up Against America’s Most Productive Car Factories

Tom Randall and Demetrios Pogkas:

Elon Musk wants to be the chief executive of “a real car company.” His goal is to turn Tesla Inc. into a mass producer capable of measuring up against some of the most productive car factories in North America.
 
 After a year of factory problems plagued the rollout of its Model 3 electric sedan, Tesla is getting closer to this goal. The company’s sole plant in Fremont, California, reached a weekly output of 6,944 cars at the end of June, including 5,031 Model 3s. If the Tesla factory could sustain that level for a year, it would rank 14th among 70 auto plants in North America, according to 2018 production data estimated by market research firm just-auto.com. That’s on par with the average weekly output of the General Motors Co. in Silao, Mexico, and the Ford Motor Co. plant in Chicago.
 
 Of course, producing nearly 7,000 cars in one go-for-broke week to meet Musk’s self-imposed deadline is very different from sustaining that output over a 52-week period. For the first half of 2018, Tesla averaged just 3,378 cars per week—only enough to take 48th place in the ranking of North American factories. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Musk predicted that by August his factory would be able to make 5,000 Model 3s each week, in addition to Model X and S vehicles, without heroic measures. “In three months,” he said, “I think 5,000 will feel normal.”

 

Munro Teardown Shows Tesla Model 3 Solidly Profitable

Sandy Munro:

Subscriptions dismissed as a ‘rich person’s toy’

Jackie Charniga:

Vehicle subscription services are trending, of course, as automakers experiment with allowing customers to make all-in, month-to-month payments, and giving them the option to frequently switch vehicles.

But is this really the industry’s next big thing?

Analysts at Edmunds put a pencil to the proposition and concluded that most automaker programs aren’t worth the hefty price tag. Even with insurance, maintenance and other fees factored into monthly payments, Edmunds says subscription costs far exceed what consumers currently pay for leases.

“At these price points that we’re seeing, [a subscription service] virtually makes no sense to anyone,” said Edmunds senior analyst Ivan Drury during a presentation of industry trends to Automotive News.

For example, he said BMW’s $3,700 per month offer for top-of-the-line vehicles such as the X6 M under the company’s Access by BMW program comes to $133,200, or double what it would cost to lease that vehicle for three years.

Death on Foot

ERIC LAWRENCE, NATHAN BOMEY AND KRISTI TANNER :

A Detroit Free Press/USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found that the SUV revolution is the most likely cause of escalating pedestrian deaths nationwide, which are up 46 percent since 2009.
 
 Almost 6,000 pedestrians died on or along U.S. roads in 2016 alone — nearly as many Americans as have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. Data analyses by the Free Press/USA TODAY and others show that SUVs are the constant in the increase and account for a steadily growing proportion of deaths.

Access Across America: Transit 2017

David Levinson:

My colleagues at the University of Minnesota just released Access Across America: Transit 2017. The time series here is a big deal, it is now possible to look at change at accessibility systematically from a national perspective, and compare cities. From the page:

The myth of revealed preference for suburbs

Joe Cortright:

One of the chief arguments in favor of the suburbs is simply that that is where millions and millions of people actually live. If so many Americans live in suburbs, this must be proof that they actually prefer suburban locations to urban ones. The counterargument, of course, is that people can only choose from among the options presented to them. And the options for most people are not evenly split between cities and suburbs, for a variety of reasons, including the subsidization of highways and parking, school policies, and the continuing legacies of racism, redlining, and segregation. One of the biggest reasons, of course, is restrictive zoning, which prohibits the construction of new urban neighborhoods all over the country.
 
 But does zoning really act as a constraint on more compact, urban housing? Sure, some skeptics might say, it appears that local zoning laws prohibit denser housing and walkable retail districts. But in fact, city governments pass such strict laws because that’s what their constituents want. Especially within a metropolitan region with many different suburban municipalities, these governments are essentially competing for residents and businesses. If there were real demand for denser, walkable neighborhoods, wouldn’t some municipalities figure out that they could attract those people by allowing that type of development?

How the Carmakers Trumped Themselves

Robinson Meyer:

When the automakers endorsed Obama’s cafe standards, they still exacted two concessions. These set the stage for what was to come.
 
 First, the new cafe standards would apply differently to different cars. Light trucks would have to meet less stringent rules than cars. And all the rules would automatically adjust to match the “footprint” of new cars—the idea being that the rules should account for the size of car that’s popular with consumers. If one automaker sells mostly crossovers and pickups, it shouldn’t be held to the same standard as another that sells mostly sedans and coupes.
 
 Second, the rules would be revisited. The EPA and the Department of Transportation had to look at the data anew and tweak the rules to match reality, and they had to do it “no later than April 1, 2018.” Since the toughest rules were always scheduled to bite in the late 2010s, the car industry would basically get one more chance to fight.
 
 Four years in advance of that date, the EPA began making sure it would meet the deadline. Agency researchers spent two years poring over thousands of pages of economics, engineering, and air-quality research. In July 2016, they published their preliminary conclusions. In a 1,200-page report, the EPA, the DOT, and California argued that new technologies would let carmakers hit their goals even more cheaply than once anticipated. The rules would also improve safety and add jobs, they said.
 
 In short: The cafe standards were working, and they should not change.

Toyota Advances Mobility as a Service Strategy with Strategic Investment and Collaboration with Grab, the leading Ride-hailing Company in Southeast Asia

Toyota:

Since August 2017, Toyota and Grab have been developing connected services for Grab utilizing driving data collected by Toyota’s TransLog data-transmission driving recorder. The recorder, developed by Toyota for corporate fleets, has been installed in 100 Grab rental cars. The data collected is stored on Toyota’s proprietary mobility services platform (MSPF), which serves as a form of information infrastructure for connected vehicles. Both companies have already begun collaboration in the field of connected vehicles by, for example, providing driving-data-based automotive insurance for Grab’s rental fleet in Singapore through local insurance companies.
 
 Toyota and Grab’s initial success led them to expand their collaboration, as announced today. This expansion is aimed at achieving connectivity for Grab’s rental car fleet across Southeast Asia, and at rolling out various connected services throughout the region that utilize vehicle data stored on Toyota’s MSPF. In addition, collaborations in driving-data-based automotive insurance, financial services for Grab drivers and maintenance services are also contemplated under the new partnership.
 
 Through this new agreement, Toyota and Grab plan to shift into full-scale implementation of services they have been developing to customers in Southeast Asia. The two companies will look for future collaborations aimed to achieve more-efficient ride-hailing businesses and for developing future mobility service solutions and MaaS vehicles.

Apple, Spurned by Others, Signs Deal With Volkswagen for Driverless Cars

Jack Nicas:

Two former employees said Apple’s requests of partners gradually evolved. At first, the company asked for help building an Apple-designed vehicle. Then, it began asking potential partners to provide foundational car pieces like the chassis and wheels. Eventually, Apple requested that potential partners retrofit their own vehicles with Apple’s sensors and software.
 
 In late 2015, Apple bought two Lexus S.U.V.s and hired a Virginia firm called Torc Robotics to retrofit the vehicles with sensors, a project known internally as Baja, one former employee said. The fleet has grown, and California regulators have authorized Apple to use 55 such S.U.V.s to run self-driving tests on public roads, the most of any company in the state after General Motors — but still fewer than Waymo has across six states.
 
 But Apple did not partner with Lexus, and it has long sought a formal partner. The company first worked with Magna Steyr, a Canadian-Austrian contract manufacturer that has produced low-volume vehicles for other automakers, like the Mercedes G-Wagen, according to two former employees. A few dozen Magna Steyr employees joined Apple’s car team in California but gradually left after the partnership ended.
 
 BMW was long Apple’s top choice, given its focus on high-end but mainstream products, former employees said. Many Apple executives, including the company’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, also drive BMWs. Mr. Cook visited BMW as early as 2014 to discuss a partnership, and those on-and-off negotiations continued for years. But a person close to the talks said any deal now appeared dead because both Apple and BMW wanted to own the customer experience and relationship.

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

Tristan Greene:

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

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

Ford Retreats From American Car Business in Penny-Pinching Push

Keith Naughton:

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

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

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

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

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

Two new Detroit-based startups are launching car subscription services

Dustin Walsh:

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

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

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

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

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

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

China’s Car Revolution Is Going Global

Bloomberg:

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

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

Timothy Lee:

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Chayka:

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

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

David Baser:

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

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

Steve Dennis:

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

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

Daniel Boffey:

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

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

aopa:

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

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

Japan to place accident liability on self-driving car owners

Nikkei:

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

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

Alison Griswold:

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

New mobility trends: China leads the way

Roland Berger:

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

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

John Lippert and Jamie Butters:

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

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

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

Fueling the future

Iwan Rhys Morus:

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

How Volkswagen Walked Away From a Near-Fatal Crash

Matthew Campbell, Christoph Rauwald and Chris Reiter:

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

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

Steps to autonomy

Benedict Evans:

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

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

Ryosuke Eguchi:

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

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

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

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

Liam Denning:

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

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

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

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

a candidate for urban and suburban mobility

Steve Crandall:

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

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

Kzuyuki Okudaira:

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

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

Daniel Ren:

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

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

Phil Levin:

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

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

Here’s where Marchetti needs some updating.

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

Tesla Is Facing a Crucible

Eric Newcomer:

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

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

Carmakers take electric fight to the factory floor

Patrick McGee:

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

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

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

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

Who maps the world?

Sarah Holder:

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

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

Gloria Orrigi:

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

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

Nathan Heller:

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

Self-driving cars will profoundly change the way people live

Economist:

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

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

:

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

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

Kyle Iboshi:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Ohnsman:

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

VW Just Gave Tesla a $25 Billion Battery Shock

Chris Reiter and Christoph Rauwald:

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

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

Cyrus Farivar:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

motofire:

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

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

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

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

Joshua Emerson Smith:

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Shieber:

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

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

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

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

Jan Ustohal:

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

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

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

Eillie Anzilotti:

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

Auto loyalty report

Edmunds:

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

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

The Economist:

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

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

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

Brittany Hunter:

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

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

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

Yves Smith:

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

Diesel cars can be banned from German cities, court rules

Markus Wacket and Ilona Wissenbach:

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

Why data science is simply the new astrology

Karthik Shashidhar:

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

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

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

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

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

Tasha Keeney:

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

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

Mark Bergen:

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

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

Julia Pyper:

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

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

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

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

Gabrielle Coppola and David Welch:

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

Toyota Readies Cheaper Electric Motor by Halving Rare Earth Use

Kevin Buckland and Nao Sano:

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

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

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

This company may have solved one of the hardest problems in clean energy

David Roberts:

Hydrogen — the H of H2O fame — turns out to be something of an all-purpose element, a Swiss Army knife for energy. It can be produced without greenhouse gases. It is highly flammable, so it can be used as a combustion fuel. It can be fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity directly, without combustion, through an electrochemical process.

It can be stored and distributed as a gas or a liquid. It can be combined with CO2 to create other useful fuels like methane or ammonia. It can be used as a chemical input in a range of industrial processes, helping to make fertilizers, plastics, or pharmaceuticals.

It is quite handy.

And it is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, so you’d think we’d have all we need. Sadly, it’s not that easy.

It is expensive, in both money and energy, to pry hydrogen loose from other elements, store it, and convert it back to useful energy. The value we get out of it has never quite justified what we invest in producing it. It is one of those technologies that seems perpetually on the verge of a breakthrough, but never quite there.

Seattle native Evan Johnson thinks he can change that. He thinks he’s finally figured out how to unlock a hydrogen economy.

Dyson’s audacious attempt to shake up car industry

Peter Campbell:

In the skies above Hullavington airfield in south-west England, there was a time when trainee parachutists would leap out of planes into the void, trusting in the kit strapped to their backs to save them from falling to earth.

The former RAF base’s current inhabitant, Dyson, is embarking on its own adventure fraught with peril: a £2bn project to develop and build electric cars from scratch.

The UK company is betting on its ingenuity, engineering skills and technology to save it from falling to earth in its audacious attempt to break into the global automotive industry.

Porsche exec talks Mission E battery and charging technology

Electric Cars:

Uwe Michael, Head of the Electrics/Electronics Development Division at Porsche, on battery technology, charging times, apps and artificial intelligence – and how his team are remaining true to the Porsche ethos in this area.

Mr Michael, why is Porsche forging its own path in terms of charging technology?

Fast loading is a great match for our intelligent performance strategy. We’ve closely examined what customers really expect from e-mobility, and what they actually want. There are two key challenges in this respect: the power and performance of e-vehicles and, following on from this, the infrastructure. Customers have two main concerns in this regard, namely inadequate ranges and long charging times.

Via Farooq Butt.

Sidewalk Talk: What city transportation will look like, circa 2043

David Levinson:

It’s 2043. Few people in cities own cars anymore. It’s cheaper to rely on electric, self-driving taxis. Some vehicles are big enough to share; others are individually sized to make the most of limited street space. They have one button inside: Stop. Dynamic curbs—patrolled by enforcement droids—remain clear for deliveries, pick-ups, and drop-offs. Street parking no longer exists, and this space has been recaptured for better public uses.

That’s the future as seen by David Levinson, the University of Sydney transport professor who writes the popular Transportist blog and is co-author of the 2017 book The End of Traffic and the Future of Access. “Look back to the 1920s, and you have magazines that ask: What does the future look like?” he says. “Some of it is absurd. Why would we all be using blimps? But some of it’s still like: Why doesn’t the future look like that?”

Podbike electric four wheeler coming to the streets in late 2018

ebiketips:

Yes, we know it’s not really a bike. But the Nowergian Podbike is certainly an interesting development. We’ve seen some movement in the electric personal transport space over the last year or two: vehicles that are more than a bike, but still pedal-based. There’s the Schaeffler Bio Hybrid, for one, and the Iris e-trike for another. The Podbike hails from Norway, and is another solution to urban transport that’s lighter and more efficient than a car.

Toyota, JapanTaxi Agree to Consider Joint Development of Taxi Services

Toyota PR:

With an aim to revitalize Japan’s taxi industry and improve its efficiencies, Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) and JapanTaxi Co., Ltd. (JapanTaxi) have concluded a basic agreement on considering, among other activities, the joint development of services for taxi operators. They also agreed that, to strengthen ties between the two companies, Toyota will invest 7.5 billion yen in JapanTaxi and subscribe for and acquire shares to be newly issued by JapanTaxi though a third-party allocation.

Toyota has been exploring ways to revitalize and improve the efficiencies of Japan’s overall taxi industry through R&D and the development of services. Activities have included Toyota’s concluding a memorandum of understanding with the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations on August 5, 2016 to study areas for collaboration, leading to such activities as the start of verification testing on data collection using Toyota data-transmission driving recorders in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Car Hackers Handbook

Open Garages:

Below you can download the book in several different formats. The license of the books is under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which lets you share it, remix it, and share your remixes, provided that you do so on a noncommercial basis.

Modern cars are more computerized than ever. Infotainment and navigation systems, Wi-Fi, automatic software updates, and other innovations aim to make driving more ­convenient. But vehicle technologies haven’t kept pace with today’s more hostile security environment, leaving ­millions vulnerable to attack.

The Car Hacker’s Handbook will give you a deeper understanding of the computer systems and embedded software in modern ­vehicles. It begins by examining vulnerabilities and providing detailed explanations of communications over the CAN bus and ­between devices and systems.

How Bikes Will Take Their Revenge on Cars and Help Us Reclaim Our Streets

Marija Gavrilov:

Without this shift away from car use, London cannot continue to grow sustainably. […] The design and layout of development should reduce the dominance of cars, and provide permeability to support active travel (public transport, walking and cycling), community interaction and economic vitality.
 London is one of a number of major cities committing to the future where getting from point A to point B doesn’t depend on personal cars.
 
 Reflected in this decision is a move towards micromobility, a trend of adopting more compact, efficient, and often shared modes of transportation in the urban setting. It is a counterweight to macromobility— transportation that relies on large vehicles for long distances and generic applications. As industry analyst Horace Dediu put it, “it’s the personal computer of 1980s.”¹
 
 I am excited about the switch. As an enthusiastic cyclist and environmentalist, I’m quick to notice the tragedy of the commons flourishing in personal transportation, especially in the U.S. Driving in one’s own vehicle is comfortable, convenient, for some people fun. At the same time, it is seriously polluting the environment and supports a sedentary lifestyle. Both unquestionably are hurting public health outcomes.
 
 As much as it is the means to connect, transportation has been divisive and discriminating throughout U.S. history. Observing some of the struggling areas of New Hampshire, where I happen to spend more time than I ever thought I would, has taught me that owning a car is often a prerequisite to having a job (one that barely pays for that same car).

Canadian energy company to replace 400 truck drivers with self driving trucks

Wimberly Patton:

Canada’s largest oil company announced on Wednesday that they will be cutting about 400 heavy-equipment operator positions over the next six years as they phase in a new fleet of self-driving trucks.
 
 The company, Suncor Energy based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, announced on Wednesday, January 31st, that it plans to deploy over 150 driver-less trucks, leading to job cuts starting as soon as 2019. At present, Suncor has nine self-driving trucks moving building materials at a job site in Alberta, making it one of the first companies in Canada to use autonomous trucks, reported Rueters.

Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan

Jim Dyer and Winnie Hu:

Driving a car into the busiest parts of Manhattan could cost $11.52 under a major proposal prepared for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would make New York the first city in the United States with a pay-to-drive plan.
 
 Similar traffic charges are already used in cities like Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan, but New York has rejected or ignored versions of them dating to at least the 1970s. The newest plan embraces the twin goals of easing Manhattan’s choking traffic while raising badly needed revenue for the city’s failing subways and buses.
 
 Trucks would pay $25.34, and taxis and for-hire vehicles could see surcharges of $2 to $5 per ride. The pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street. In a key change from past efforts, drivers would not have to pay if they entered Manhattan by all but two of the city-owned East River bridges, which are now free to cross, as long as they bypassed the congestion zone.

Mazda Skyactive3

Chris Perkins:

Have self driving cars stopped getting better?

Mark Harris:

Subprime Auto Debt Is Booming Even as Defaults Soar

Cecile Gutscher:

A boom in sales, a pickup in defaults, and risk premiums keep on dropping.
 
 It’s all happening in the market for subprime auto bonds, where loans to American consumers with some of the patchiest credit histories are packaged into securities to be sold to big investors. A decade after risky mortgage lending toppled the U.S. financial system, the securities have rarely been so popular. But the collateral behind the bonds is getting less safe: car-owners are increasingly falling behind on bigger loans with longer repayment terms made against depreciating assets.
 
 “As used-car values drop a bit and delinquencies and roll rates begin to increase, the subprime sector will show significant underperformance and lack of decent liquidity,” said Don McConnell, senior portfolio manager at Bank of Montreal’s BMO Global Asset Management in Chicago, who helps manage $15 billion of taxable bonds. He’s reinvesting cash from maturing notes elsewhere.

Could Self-Driving Trucks Be Good for Truckers?

Alexis Madrigal:

The outlook for trucking jobs has been grim of late. Self-driving trucks, several reports and basic logic have suggested, are going to wipe out truckers. Trucking is going to be the next great automation bloodbath.
 
 But a counter-narrative is emerging: No, skeptics in the industry, government, academia are saying, trucking jobs will not be endangered by autonomous driving, and in the brightest scenarios, as in new research by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, there may be an increase in trucking jobs as more self-driving vehicles are introduced.
 
 “We’ve been disappointed over the last year to see a lot of stories about how self-driving trucks are going to be this huge problem for truck drivers,” says Alden Woodrow, the product lead for self-driving trucks at Uber. “That’s not at all what we think the outcome is going to be.”

The world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test

Waymo:

Over the past nine years, we’ve put our vehicles through the world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test. Each day our vehicles can be found test driving on closed courses, on public roads, and in simulation. Waymo’s testing program is a critical aspect to building a safe and capable driver: it lets us extend our vehicle’s capabilities, try out new driving skills, and introduce new vehicle platforms and hardware.

As we prepare to launch Waymo’s self-driving ride-hailing service this year, we’ve accelerated the pace of testing at every level. Last year was a record year for Waymo:

Taxi deregulation brings cheap rides and innovation to Finland in 2018

Metropolitan:

Taxi transportation is deregulated in Finland in July 2018. The market moves from a system where the number of taxi licenses was limited to one where there are no arbitraly limits. This opens up the market for new players. One of them is Fixutaxi that brings flat rate 10 € rides to the capital Helsinki.

Opening up personal transportation is a global trend with US companies Uber and Lyft being the most prominent in western media, but there are many operators such as Dixi Chuxing in China and Yandex Taxi in Russia. After years of combatting Uber, Finland chose to embrace the change instead of wasting tax payer’s money.

Ford Paves a Path From Big Automaker to Big Operating System

Arrian Marshall:

In its 114-year history, Ford has been many kinds of automaker. A manufacturing innovator, a hawker of Mustang muscle, a pickup powerhouse. Now the company that helped put a car (or two) in every garage wants to be something else altogether: an operating system.
 
 “With the power of AI and the rise of autonomous and connected vehicles, for the first time in a century, we have mobility technology that won’t just incrementally improve the old system but can completely disrupt it,” CEO Jim Hackett said in a keynote address at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, trumpeting the pivot. “A total redesign of the surface transportation system with humans and community at the center.”
 
 As Ford executives move to execute the plan, they unveiled yesterday a reorganization of the automaker’s young mobility business, with two acquisitions to help it along. It’s all in service of a new, very 21st century goal. Ford will put less effort into convincing people to plunk down their credit cards for personal cars (though that’s still important) and more into moving them from A to B, with a little Ford badge tacked onto whatever gets them there.
 
 It’s a turbulent time for traditional automakers, which have to keep making money today while aggressively prepping for the market changes—carshare, ridehailing, self-driving—that will happen tomorrow. Ford’s news comes eight months after the company dismissed CEO Mark Fields in favor of Hackett, a former furniture exec who oversaw the formation of Ford’s mobility subsidiary—and promised a greater vision for the future. Earlier this week, the Detroit automaker posted disappointing quarterly profits. Ford blamed rising metal prices while CFO Bob Shanks said, “We have to be far fitter than we are.”
 
 In lean times, every expenditure merits extra scrutiny. And while Ford Mobility President Marcy Klevorn did not disclose how much it spent on its new companies, she says they’re important steps on Ford’s path to becoming more than a big ol’ automaker. “We did an assessment of our strategy and what our gaps were and the speed we wanted to go,” she says. “We looked at where we thought we needed a really fast infusion of help.”

Dirty Money review – Alex Gibney left choking with rage by VW

Sam Wollaston:

I thought I knew the VW emissions scandal story quite well. But I’ve never seen it so well laid out as in this documentary, Hard NOx, one of a new investigative Netflix series from Alex Gibney about scandal and corruption in the business world.
 
 It is mainly told from a US viewpoint but the story is a global one, from 2015, when the German car manufacturer was discovered to have installed defeat devices to dupe emissions tests, affecting 11m vehicles.
 
 Gibney directs and presents this episode himself, and brings to it an extraordinary thoroughness. He interviews everyone who could and would be interviewed – VW employees, scientists, testers, lawyers, car journalists, etc, and turns up new evidence, more shocking details about the scale of the deceit, the attempts to cover it up, and the unhealthy alliance between governments and car manufacturers that allowed it to happen in the first place.
 
 He also sets Volkswagen in a historical context, going right back to Hitler and his people’s car, through the 60s counterculture of Beetles and Campers, to declining sales, and the intense pressure to sell more, at any cost, which is what a corporate culture permeated by fraud was born of.

Charging racism, Cottage Grove parents want Harper Lee book barred from classroom

Karen Rivedal:

But to Cottage Grove parents Tujama and Jeannine Kameeta, whose son is a freshman at Monona Grove High School, the novel “provides no educational value” and is racist itself due to how themes are presented and because of its use of racial slurs — the Kameetas counted 48 — in character dialogue, they said in a statement.

“By mandating students read this book the school district is subjecting students of color to racial harassment,” the statement said. Tujama Kameeta also clarified in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday that he was OK with the book being available in the high school library but found it inappropriate as curriculum.

“The N-word is used so many times that it numbs the readers to its potency,” he said, also charging that the “novel reduces black people to passive, humble victims and ignores the reality of black agency in resistance.”

There are many newer books available that deal with “the same topics in more contemporary ways,” he noted, including those by minority authors who have “a different and more valid perspective when it comes to racism.”

SF sues Turo for not having airport permits

Carolyn Said:

SF city attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a lawsuit against Turo, a company that arranges rentals of personal vehicles.

San Francisco is suing Turo, which arranges rentals of people’s personal cars, for allegedly flouting fee requirements and other rules at San Francisco International Airport. Turo’s defiance of SFO regulations, such as bans on terminal curbside rental pickups and dropoffs, contributes to airport traffic congestion and gives it an unfair advantage against competitors, according to the complaint, which was filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday.

San Francisco’s Turo said it was “stunned” by the lawsuit, and that it had been trying for years to work with SFO on a permit system that would acknowledge its status as a “peer-to-peer car-sharing company.”

Why driverless cars may mean jams tomorrow

The Economist:

They will spare the world neither traffic congestion nor infrastructure expense

Toyota wants to change the world with Mirai, its new hydrogen car

Jonathan Bell:

The fourth-generation Toyota Prius is manufactured at the company’s Tsutsumi plant, a few kilometres south-east of Nagoya, around 100 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train. From Tsutsumi’s viewing gantries, two production lines stretch away into the distance. These halls house the trim workshop. Here, completed body shells roll in, are divested of their doors (which make their way in pairs along a separate line) and the interior, hybrid system, dashboard and seats are installed. The factory, which has been making Priuses since 2003, produces 430,000 cars a year. From 6.30am to 1am, it can turn out a Prius every minute.

This is the Toyota Production System (TPS) at work, a fabled refinement that funnels the immense complexity of car-making into a series of simple stages. Each step is serviced using the just-in-time manufacturing process by the requisite parts supplier. The system is controlled by the workers themselves, who have autonomy over stopping and starting the line to resolve issues.

Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan

Jim Dwyer and Winnie Hu:

Driving a car into the busiest parts of Manhattan could cost $11.52 under a major proposal prepared for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would make New York the first city in the United States with a pay-to-drive plan.
 
 Similar traffic charges are already used in cities like Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan, but New York has rejected or ignored versions of them dating to at least the 1970s. The newest plan embraces the twin goals of easing Manhattan’s choking traffic while raising badly needed revenue for the city’s failing subways and buses.
 
 Trucks would pay $25.34, and taxis and for-hire vehicles could see surcharges of $2 to $5 per ride. The pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street. In a key change from past efforts, drivers would not have to pay if they entered Manhattan by all but two of the city-owned East River bridges, which are now free to cross, as long as they bypassed the congestion zone.
 
 The proposals are part of a report by a task force, “Fix NYC,” convened by Governor Cuomo after he declared a state of emergency in the subways last June. The report says that the fees on taxis and for-hire vehicles could be put in place within a year, followed by trucks and then cars in 2020. None of those fees should be charged, the task force said, until repairs are made to the public transit system.

The American Sedan Is Dying. Long Live the SUV

Keith Naughton , Jamie Butters , David Welch , and Tommaso Ebhardt:

Cars that probably won’t survive are large sedans like Ford’s Taurus and its competitors, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with researcher IHS Markit. She said mid-size sedans like the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion have gotten bigger, making the Taurus or Chevy Impala less necessary. A consumer who needs more space will just buy an SUV.
 
 “In another couple of years, you just won’t see these cars being developed for another generation,” Brinley said. “There’s a good chance that in eight years, this segment of the market doesn’t even exist.”
 
 Other GM models with uncertain futures in the U.S. include the Buick LaCrosse, while Cadillac plans to whittle down its sedan lineup to just three nameplates. But Detroit’s passenger cars won’t completely die off, said Alan Batey, president of GM’s North American business.

Study confirms what every Texan already knows: Buc-ee’s is no. 1 when it comes to gas stations

William Axford:

“With 33 U.S. locations, Buc-ee’s sweeps the ranking by capturing the highest ratings and reviews in all six GasBuddy categories: coffee, cleanliness, customer service, outdoor lighting, restrooms and overall,” GasBuddy said of Buc-ee’s.

Other top gas station brands include Illinois-based Kelley’s Market, Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip and Pennsylvania-based Wawa.

Buc-ee’s in Katy recognized for its car wash by Guinness World Records

The Katy location holds the record for the longest car wash conveyor belt.

Ban the bike! How cities made a huge mistake in promoting cycling

Lawrence Solomon:

The bicycle has come a long way since the 1980s when bicycle advocacy groups (my group, Energy Probe, among them) lobbied against policies that discriminated against cyclists. In the language of the day, the bicycle epitomized “appropriate technology”: It was a right-sized machine that blessed cities with economic and environmental benefits. At no expense to taxpayers, the bicycle took cars off the road, easing traffic; it saved wear and tear on the roads, easing municipal budgets; it reduced auto emissions, easing air pollution; it reduced the need for automobile parking, increasing the efficiency of land use; and it helped keep people fit, too.

Today the bicycle is a mixed bag, usually with more negatives than positives. In many cities, bike lanes now consume more road space than they free up, they add to pollution as well as reducing it, they hurt neighbourhoods and business districts alike, and they have become a drain on the public purse. The bicycle today — or rather the infrastructure that now supports it — exemplifies “inappropriate technology,” a good idea gone wrong through unsustainable, willy-nilly top-down planning.

BMW acquires Parkmobile parking app to help tackle city traffic

Darrel Etherington:

BMW has acquired Parkmobile, an app that provides guidance and services for those looking for parking in North America, including on-street and garage parking payments and spot reservation. BMW Group had already held a minority investment in the company, and owned its Parkmobile Group Europe affiliate, but today it increased its holdings to reach majority ownership of Parkmobile, LLC, which is based in Atlanta.
 
 This will provide BMW with a significant foothold in the U.S. parking services market, since Parkmobile is available in over 300 cities stateside, including NYC, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Parkmobile will become part of BMW Group’s Mobility Services portfolio, which is expanding in scope and influence now that mobility is an area of increasing interest for automakers.

How to overcome ve myths that are distracting your auto company

pwc:

The global auto industry has been in high gear for the last decade. Thanks to strength in North America and emerging markets such as China and India, annual vehicle sales in 2017 will approach 93.5 million units, up from around 63.5 million in the throes of the 2008 recession. Moreover, combined annual pro ts for the top
 17 automakers worldwide are at record levels, well above US$120 billion.
 Yet automotive companies — suppliers and manufacturers (OEMs) alike — are anything but sanguine. Huge upheavals in the look, feel, propulsion, and technology of automobiles, both existing and predicted, have created a deep well of uncertainty. Many companies are unsure which way to turn strategically to prepare for the transformation that appears to be under way. As a result, they have poured money into new and, in many cases, unproven technologies for automobile connectivity, new engine designs, and self-driving features. The riskiness of this approach is glaring when you consider the industry’s record of unimpressive value creation, even when the sector is delivering record pro tability. In 2016, the return on invested capital for the top 10 OEMs was only 6.6 percent, just over half the cost of capital.
 
 Certainly, major changes are coming to the industry but not as quickly as many would have us believe. Indeed, ve myths have gained credence and have served to potentially misdirect auto OEMs.

Will Self-Driving Cars Usher in a Transportation Utopia or Dystopia?

Jacques Leslie:

”The news sounds almost too good to be true.
 
 “How the U.S. Transportation System Can Save $1 Trillion, 2 Billion Barrels of Oil, and 1 Gigaton of Carbon Emissions Annually,” proclaimed the headline of an article published by the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmentally minded, innovation-focused Boulder, Colorado think tank. The institute’s prescription is a technological trifecta: electric, autonomous, shared cars.
 
 Propelled by the ongoing digitization of just about everything, notably including cars, the thinking trumpeted in that 2015 article has been percolating in the transportation sector for the last several years⁠. All three components of this vision are already expanding. Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are slowly growing and should increase greatly as EVs become cheaper to own than combustion-engine cars — something that Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts believe will happen by 2024⁠.
 
 Automated cars, often referred to as “autonomous vehicles” (AVs) — whose passengers determine their routes without having to drive them — are being widely developed and tested, and probably will be used commercially in controlled settings within a few years. Lyft, Uber, and others have introduced ride-sharing, in which customers agree to travel with strangers in return for reduced fares. Put all three concepts together in one vehicle, posit that within a few decades this shared EV-AV technology will take over the nation’s automobile fleet, and the outcome seems environmentally irresistible, verging on fantastical.

Self-Driving Car Startup Aurora Joins Forces With Volkswagen and Hyundai

Alex Davies:

Less than a decade after Google launched the age of the self-driving car, most of the main players have made some long-term commitments—not in the name of love, but to ensure success. With few exceptions, the companies eager to turn robots loose on our streets can’t go through life alone. None have the particular combination of manufacturing, software, and customer-facing expertise this work demands.

The hookups between the software whiz kids and the folks with the factories are especially hot and heavy. In 2016, General Motors bought startup Cruise. Last year Ford invested $1 billion in Argo AI, and industry supplier Delphi went home with MIT spinoff Nutonomy. Now one of the last significant startups without a manufacturer to call its own has found its beloved.

Two beloveds, actually. Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation announced today it has signed deals with both Volkswagen and Hyundai to get its self-driving software into commercial service.

“Our mission is to deliver self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly. And to do that, we needed to find automotive partners that had global scale,” says cofounder and CEO Chris Urmson.

Mark Bergen and Dana Hull have more.

The Three Students Who Uncovered ‘Dieselgate’

Phillip:

Arvind, Hemanth and Marc actually only came to the United States to attend university. Arvind Thiruvengadam and Hemanth Kappanna are both from India, from Chennai and Bangalore, respectively, while Marc Besch is from Biel, Switzerland. They all ended up in West Virginia, not exactly the America you dream of when you come from Chennai or Bangalore. Probably not even when you come from Biel.
 
 Attached to West Virginia University is an institute for emissions research – also, perhaps, not the field of study you dream of when you’re around 30 and aspiring to a career in auto engineering. The institute is called the Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions (CAFEE), located in an unprepossessing corrugated iron structure in a clearing in the hills of West Virginia. In other words, in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is Morgantown, the nearest place you might have heard of, Pittsburgh.
 
 This is where Arvind, Hemanth and Marc began measuring emissions. First truck emissions and then passenger cars – until they accidentally uncovered a scandal that brought the world’s biggest carmaker at the time to its knees. The emissions tests carried out by Arvind, Hemanth and Marc have already cost the Volkswagen company around 25 billion euros, mainly in buybacks, fines and settlements, and that is by no means the end of it. Because of a study written by these three students, former VW managers are wanted by the FBI, one has been arrested in the U.S. and others are in custody in Germany. One German politician called the diesel scandal “the biggest industrial scandal since World War II.”

Jump starting the EV revolution will take more quick charging stations, but who will pay for them?

Aldo Svaldi:

More than a quarter of the energy consumed in Colorado goes to transportation — and a big shift from gasoline toward electricity is expected in the near future.

But before large numbers of consumers sign on, they want to see longer driving ranges on electric vehicles and more public charging stations, especially the kind that can recharge batteries quickly.

“More stations equals more electric vehicles equals more stations,” said Jonathan Levy, director of policy and strategy at Vision Ridge Partners in Boulder.

The War On Driving To Come

Charles Cooke:

Regardless, everyone will suffer from the catastrophic loss of privacy. Any network of self-driving cars would, by definition, necessitate total and unceasing tracking of their occupants. I may know how to get to the local liquor store without a map, but my car most certainly does not. To make it there in a driverless model, I’d first have to tell it where I was going, and then it would have to ask the Internet, and the satellites, and, probably, my credit card. To the existing framework we would thus be adding a planet-wrapping exoskeleton with a perfect digital memory. The car, far from serving as a liberator, would become a telescreen on wheels — an FBI-approved bug, to be slipped beneath the chassis in plain sight of the surveilled. At a stroke, my autonomy would be gone. Without permission from the Web, I would be lost in space. A mere server glitch could render me immobile. The government, should it so choose, could stop me dead in my tracks. Yet again, I would be handing over my self-reliance to the government and to the corporations, and asking, plaintively, “Please sir, may I move?”

Can Mitchonomics Fix the Broken Business of Higher Ed?

:

Under Daniels, things have been generally cheery at Purdue. With return on investment increasingly important to students, given the price of attending and the corresponding debt, Purdue has something to sell: static costs and a good job if you graduate, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Since Daniels started in 2013, undergrad applications and enrollment have hit record levels, as have alumni donations, graduation rates, and the number of startups launched by researchers. Purdue has added 75 tenure-track positions in engineering and increased the number of students earning STEM degrees by 24 percent, with big gains among women (40 percent) and underrepresented minorities (65 percent). Daniels has rolled out initiatives that range from the audacious, such as interest-free financial aid in exchange for a percentage of future earnings, to the alcoholic: Boiler Gold, a craft beer that went on sale in West Lafayette this fall, is a collaboration among a local brewer, the university, and its food science department.
Daniels’s moves are driven by necessity. Founded in 1869, Purdue was part of a wave of public universities established after the Civil War that helped expand the middle class and propel the research advances that fueled the manufacturing boom in the 20th century. Today, tighter public spending means more schools are getting less state funding. Some, including the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, have replaced that loss with a combination of jacked-up tuition, even-more-jacked-up out-of-state tuition, successful sports programs, and donations from exuberant—and wealthy—alumni. Other large public universities, especially in the Midwest, have struggled to replace state funding cuts, making it tough to keep faculty from seeking higher salaries and bigger research budgets elsewhere. Professors at Midwestern public universities make about 30 percent less than their Northeastern counterparts.

If You Love Interesting Cars, You Owe Kenichi Yamamoto A Debt Of Gratitude

Patrick George:

Outside of Japan, Kenichi Yamamoto isn’t a household name. Not the way Henry Ford and Carroll Shelby and Lee Iacocca are. Yet most people who enter the auto industry don’t get to produce one of the greatest alternative engines ever made, or oversee the development of one of the most beloved sports cars of all time. Kenichi Yamamoto got to do both.
 
 Yamamoto died this week at the age of 95, according to news reports. His life and career saw him rise from the literal ashes of post-World War II Hiroshima to key roles within Mazda, and along the way, he would help the automaker rise in much the same way.
 
 Along the way he brought the world Mazda’s Wankel rotary engine—and Mazda remains the only car company to ever really get it right—and the MX-5 Miata. On two fronts, Yamamoto helped make Mazda the company it is today and inspired generations of enthusiasts along the way.
 
 Like many in Japan who came of age in the aftermath of WWII, Yamamoto didn’t have it easy. As a 1995 profile by Automotive News recounts, he graduated university in 1944, and briefly oversaw a fighter airplane factory. The year after that, his hometown of Hiroshima was essentially wiped out by a horrifying new kind of weapon the world had never seen before: