An hour before midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1985, a bunch of Harley executives sat in a room at a bank with two stacks of papers, one for bankruptcy and another for recapitalization, if their last gasp ask for fresh investment came in. They had given themselves until midnight to get new money or go bankrupt, and time was running out.
Many of the executives had, four years earlier, personally invested $1 million or more—while borrowing tens of millions more on top of that—to buy the company from the conglomerate AMF for $80 million and take it private. AMF itself had acquired the motorcycle manufacturer for $14 million in 1969 (about $100 million today) with a plan to expand production and squeeze out maximum profits. But a decade of labor trouble, declining build quality, and the dominance of Japanese motorcycles—Honda, in particular—had, by 1981, left Harley in dire straits.
It was kind of a miracle that Harley had lasted that long to begin with and, indeed, had almost done so by default. Such was the impact of 1969’s Easy Rider that, without it, the company might not have existed much longer after, since, historically, motorcycle companies in the United States came and went at the ferocious whims of the marketplace. Consider that, after Indian closed its doors in 1958, Harley was the only American motorcycle manufacturer left, having succeeded where hundreds of competitors had tried and failed.
Volkswagen has announced sweeping organisational changes to its dealership and sales network throughout Europe as it prepares for the launch of its ID electric vehicle sub-brand.
At the heart of the changes is a new online sales and service channel that will allow Volkswagen to sell cars directly to customers as well as offer individual mobility services. The channel also lets it track customer driving habits and offer over-the-air software updates through a suite of new connectivity options to be made available on future models.
It will be supported by a network of city showrooms and pop-stores that have been conceived to bring Volkswagen closer to potential customers in a move aimed at making the German car maker’s sales organisation more flexible and efficient.
Like so many inventions, the scooter was a child of necessity: Specifically, the need to get a bratwurst without looking like an idiot.
One night in 1990, Wim Ouboter, a Dutch-Swiss banker and amateur craftsman, was “in the mood for a St. Gallen bratwurst at the Sternengrill in Zurich,” or so the story goes. He wanted to get from his house to the brat place and then to a bar, stat, but the stops seemed too far apart to walk, and too close to drive. What he really needed, Ouboter decided, was a mode of transportation that would let him swiftly cover that micro-distance. A bike seemed like too much trouble to take out of the garage. What he wanted was a kick scooter.
General Motors Co. and Google couldn’t be more different. GM musters an army of people and machines to produce the 10 million cars it sells each year. What Google makes doesn’t really exist: You type on a laptop or click play on a YouTube video, and Google zips back bits of digital information.
But Google parent Alphabet Inc. and the other four dominant U.S. technology companies—Apple, Amazon.com, Microsoft, and Facebook—are fast becoming industrial giants. They spent a combined $80 billion in the last year on big-ticket physical assets, including manufacturing equipment and specialized tools for assembling iPhones and the powerful computers and undersea internet cables Facebook needs to fire up Instagram videos in a flash. Thanks to this surge in spending—up from $40 billion in 2015—they’ve joined the ranks of automakers, telephone companies, and oil drillers as the country’s biggest spenders on capital goods, items including factories, heavy equipment, and real estate that are considered long-term investments. Their combined outlay is about 10 times what GM spends annually on its plants, vehicle-assembly robots, and other materials.
The splurge by tech companies is behind an upswing in capital-goods spending among big U.S. companies, which is seeing its fastest growth in years, according to a Credit Suisse analysis. The $80 billion tab also is a snapshot of why it’s tough to unseat the tech giants. How can a company hope to compete with Google’s driverless cars when it spends $20 billion a year to ensure it has the best laser-guided sensors and computer chips? There are a lot of physical assets behind all those internet clouds.
A year ago the world was beset by a bicycle rental craze that resulted in piles of discarded equipment and mountains of claims about the size of each fleet’s business.
I even fielded complaints from one outfit’s PR representatives that I underreported its figures. (They didn’t get back to me with their official numbers.)
Now, thanks to securities law and Meituan Dianping’s Hong Kong IPO today, I can shed some light on these claims.
Meituan bought one of these bike-sharing startups, Mobike, on April 4, and gives details of its operations in the IPO prospectus. Because it’s generally considered unwise to lie in an offer document, it’s probably safe to assume it’s a reasonably truthful account of what’s happening at the bike rental business.
Compare the details in the prospectus with statements made in press releases and the divergence is striking.
The convergence of new technologies including artificial intelligence, the internet of things, electric cars, and drone delivery systems suggests an unlikely solution to the growing housing crisis. In the next few years, we may use an app on our smartphones to notify our houses to pick us up or drop us off.
Honda recently announced the IeMobi Concept. It is an autonomous mobile living room that attaches and detaches from your home. When parked, the vehicle becomes a 50-square-foot living or workspace. Mercedes-Benz Vans rolled out an all-electric digitally-connected van with fully integrated cargo space and drone delivery capability, and Volvo just unveiled its 360c concept vehicle that serves as either a living room or mobile office. In other cases, some folks are simply retrofitting existing vehicles. One couple in Oxford England successfully converted a Mercedes Sprinter van into a micro-home that includes 153 square feet of living space, a complete kitchen, a sink, a fridge, a four-person dining area, and hidden storage spaces.
For those who are either unwilling or unable to own a home, self-driving van houses could become a convenient and affordable solution. Soon, our mobile driverless vehicles may allow us to work from our cars and have our laundry and a hot meal delivered at the same time. In Los Angeles alone, it is estimated that 15,000 people are already living in their cars and in most countries it is perfectly legal to live in your vehicle.
Car makers are collecting massive amounts of data from the latest cars on the road. Now, they’re figuring out how to make money off it.
With millions of cars rolling off dealer lots with built-in connectivity, auto companies are gaining access to unprecedented amounts of real-time data that allow them to track everything from where a car is located to how hard it is braking and whether or not the windshield wipers are on.
The data is generated by the car’s onboard sensors and computers, and then stored by the auto maker in cloud-based servers. Some new cars have as many as 100 built-in processors that generate data.
On a recent afternoon at a bus stop in the business district of Nanshan in Shenzhen, China, the air was filled with the sound of chirping birds in a nearby park. The street was quiet, with the exception of the occasional diesel truck chugging past—holdouts against a future that glided in with barely a sound: an electric bus.
A woman who’d been browsing on her smartphone while she waited hadn’t noticed the bus creeping up to the stop. Not until the doors opened with a beep, beep, beep and a man barking boisterously into his phone stepped out did she spring into action and hop aboard. Passengers scanned in with their smartphones, paying through WeChat, the app developed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., the Chinese social media giant whose flashy 50-story headquarters could be seen from the bus stop.
For decades, Canadians interested in post-secondary education (PSE) have decried the lack of easily available, easily digestible data on the post-secondary sector. In part, this lacuna results from some very large gaps in our PSE data system, especially with respect to colleges, staff, and student assistance (in contrast, statistics on institutional finances are among the best in the world). There are also some types of statistics which take an inordinately long time to appear (data on international students, for instance, routinely take three to four times as long to appear in Canada as they do in the US, the UK, or Australia). Our decentralized, federal system is partly to blame, but mainly, Canadian governments and statistical agencies just seem not to care about good education data the way some other countries do.
That said, there actually is a considerable amount of data on Canadian post-secondary education available, but it is just not usually put in a narrative form which is easily accessible. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), for instance, puts out an invaluable annual “almanac”, but the data has a profound university skew and tends to be presented in tabular form rather than through more intuitive graphics. Universities Canada occasionally puts together some good publications on the state of the system, but these have become rarer as of late and in any case largely miss the colleges. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) has an irregularly published system of “Education Indicators” but these are more focused on education as a whole rather than on post-secondary and fall prey to the same preference for tables over graphs. Statistics Canada produces a great deal of data (if not always very promptly), but does very little to help people interpret it.
As a result of all this, Higher Education Strategy Associates has decided to produce an annual publication called “The State of Post-Secondary Education in Canada”. We took as our model a similar set of publications produced by Andrew Norton and his colleagues at the Grattan Institute in Melbourne entitled “Mapping Australian Higher Education”. Like the Australian exercise, we expect we will take on slightly different issues in each future edition, depending on what new data come available. For the inaugural year, we chose to stick to the basics: describing the Canadian system (trickier than it sounds), detailing trends in student and staff numbers, and looking at how the system is financed, both from an institutional and a student perspective. We hope that by putting all of this information in a handy and convenient format, and providing some accompanying narrative, that we can help improve the quality of public dialogue on post-secondary education policy issues. Any and all comments or suggestions about how to improve the publication for future years will be gratefully received.
Google paid Mastercard millions of dollars for the data, according to two people who worked on the deal, and the companies discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenue, according to one of the people. The people asked not to be identified discussing private matters. A spokeswoman for Google said there is no revenue sharing agreement with its partners.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the partnership with Mastercard, but addressed the ads tool. “Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information,” the company said in a statement. “We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.” The company said people can opt out of ad tracking using Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console. Inside Google, multiple people raised objections that the service did not have a more obvious way for cardholders to opt out of the tracking, one of the people said.
Dyson has unveiled plans for a 10-mile test track in Wiltshire where its new electric cars will be put through their paces.
The track and other facilities are part of a plan to start selling a “radical” electric car from 2021.
The company best known for its vacuums and domestic appliances bought the disused airfield at Hullavington two years ago.
Dyson has already renovated two hangars built in 1938 at the 517-acre site.
That redevelopment has cost £84m and the next phase of the airfield’s development would take Dyson’s total investment to £200m.
As ridership grows across the more than 40 cities in which Bird operates, information collected about e-scooter trips becomes more robust and can be used to help paint a detailed story about the transportation opportunities and challenges that exist throughout a community. Given the dynamic nature of this anonymized and aggregated information and its ability to significantly benefit communities, Bird’s Government Technology team is creating a comprehensive, customized dashboard to provide cities direct access to digestible information. In addition to the dashboard, Bird is also delivering cities the ability to geo-fence specific no-ride and no-parking zones, providing members of any community an easy way to report irresponsible riding and poor parking and increasing rider education.
The Bird GovTech Platform, an industry-leading offering, will be rolling out to cities where Bird operates, includes four initial products:
VW said it was easier to do over-the-air software updates for cars if the operating system was designed in-house, rather than depending on third-party software supplied by the different vendors providing various sensors.
VW said it expects to generate around 1 billion euros in sales by 2025 from offering new digital services including car-sharing, parking and parcel delivery services.
The digital push includes embedding smartphone applications like “We Park” into car infotainment systems and connecting vehicles with vendors like Amazon that can use an app to open cars so they can be used as delivery locations, VW said.
Volkswagen also said it would launch a car-sharing business, called “We Share”, in Berlin using a fleet of 2,000 electric cars in the second quarter of 2019.
I consider Definite Optimism as Human Capital to be my most creative piece. Unfortunately, it’s oblique and meandering. So I thought to write a followup to lay out its premises more directly and to offer a restatement of its ideas.
The goal of both pieces is to broaden the terms in which we discuss “technology.” Technology should be understood in three distinct forms: as processes embedded into tools (like pots, pans, and stoves); explicit instructions (like recipes); and as process knowledge, or what we can also refer to as tacit knowledge, know-how, and technical experience. Process knowledge is the kind of knowledge that’s hard to write down as an instruction. You can give someone a well-equipped kitchen and an extraordinarily detailed recipe, but unless he already has some cooking experience, we shouldn’t expect him to prepare a great dish.
I submit that we have two big biases when we talk about technology. First, we think about it too much in terms of tools and recipes, when really we should think about it more in terms of process knowledge and technical experience. Second, most of us focus too much on the digital world and not enough on the industrial world. Our obsession with the digital world has pushed our expectation of the technological future in the direction of cyberpunk dystopia; I hope instead that we can look forward to a joyful vision of the technological future, driven by advances in industry.
This is one of my longer essays; the final section summarizes the main points.
Process knowledge is represented by an experienced workforce. I’ve been studying the semiconductor industry, and that has helped to clarify my thoughts on technological innovation more broadly. It’s easy to identify all three forms of technology in the production of semiconductors: tools, instructions, and process knowledge. The three firms most responsible for executing Moore’s Law—TSMC, Intel, and Samsung—make full use of each of these tools. Each of them invest north of $10 billion a year to push forward that technological frontier.
“The bottom line is society needs identifiers,” says Jeremy Grant, coordinator of the Better Identity Coalition, an industry collaboration that includes Visa, Bank of America, Aetna, and Symantec. “We just have to make sure that knowledge of an identifier can’t be used to somehow take over the authenticator. And a phone number is only an identifier; in most cases, it’s public.”
Think of your usernames and passwords. The former are generally public knowledge; it’s how people know who you are. But you keep the latter guarded, because it’s how you prove who you are.
The use of phone numbers as both lock and key has led to the rise, in recent years, of so-called SIM swapping attacks, in which an attacker steals your phone number. When you add two-factor authentication to an account and receive your codes through SMS texts, they go to the attacker instead, along with any calls and texts intended for the victim. Sometimes attackers even use inside sources at carriers who will transfer numbers for them.
Sir James Dyson – the billionaire inventor, turbo-bespectacled, closely buttoned, best known for things that suck and things that blow, but specifically ones that do each very well – took to a stage in early March 2018 in the Meat-packing District of New York and began to tell the crowd about how his latest product sucked like never before.
The item in question was a vacuum cleaner called the V10. (Dyson products tend to have names you suspect engineers coined; this is not unrelated to the fact, as Dyson himself admits, that, “The company is run by engineers now. The CEO is an engineer. All the product directors are engineers.”) It was the latest in Dyson’s range of “stick” battery-powered vacuums, which is to say it is more like a gun you fire at the floor, complete with trigger, than a hulking machine you push around. The difference has seen some unexpectedly comic consequences – when a couple buy one, for instance, the man will often start taking up cleaning duties.
“Hello,” Dyson said, arriving to light clapping. “That’s very kind. Now…”
The development of a Group-wide platform and digital services for the “Volkswagen We” ecosystem is being accelerated. The Group plans to invest 3.5 billion euros in digitization by 2025, making the car the central hub on the Internet of Things.
“We have a clear vision: we will continue to build vastly superior vehicles. But going forward, our Volkswagens will increasingly become digital devices on wheels”, Jürgen Stackmann, Volkswagen Brand Board Member for Sales, said today at a press conference in the Group Representative Office in Berlin. “Our customers will become part of an ecosystem that we have named ‘We’. This system complements the Volkswagen experience on wheels and enables customer to take their world into their vehicle”, Stackmann commented, adding that the brand hoped open interfaces would also encourage third parties to participate in creating a strong community by contributing their own software.
Chinese automakers appear to be cracking the powerful Japanese oligopoly in Southeast Asia -something western automakers have tried – and failed at – for more than 30 years.
Southeast Asia, aka “ASEAN”, is the loose association of 10 countries – including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines – located in the South Pacific. As a group, the nations are home to nearly 500 million people, an expanding middle-class and 3.4 million new car purchases a year. In Indonesia alone, annual car sales will reach around 1.1 million in 2018.
OpenOil was founded in late 2011 by Johnny West, and has since evolved into a consultancy, publishing house and training provider, specialised on open data products and services around natural resources.
We began with a focus on the Middle East, but have since carried out projects and workshops in many countries across the globe, published more than 20 books on the extractive industries, including “How to Read and Understand Oil Contracts“, as well as developed a series of open data applications, such as the OpenOil Contract Repository, the Corporate Network Navigator, and the Aleph Database – a fully text-searchable database of over 1,000,000 company reports, news articles and government publications.
Few engines throughout history have achieved a near mythical status among its admirers. Fewer still can share credit for the rescue of an entire nation. Perhaps only the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine can claim both distinctions. During the Battle of Britain, it was the Merlin that powered the Royal Air Force Hurricanes and Spitfires that were England’s only effective defense against German air attacks. With the battle won, and the engine’s reputation thus established, the Merlin would become the stuff of legend and the powerplant of choice for numerous other aircraft.
Even before the 1940 air battles over England, it was apparent that demand for the Merlin was far outpacing Rolls-Royce’s ability to produce them. The Ford Motor Company was asked to build 9,000 Merlins for both England and the US. Ford initially accepted the deal, but later reneged. Henry Ford explained that he would only produce military items for US defense. Interestingly, Ford of Britain in Manchester, England ultimately produced 36,000 Merlin engines, beginning at the same time period. Of course, Ford’s American factories would indeed become vital to the war effort. They manufactured unfathomable quantities of airplanes, jeeps and other war materiel–but not Merlins.
In “Google Data Collection,” Professor Douglas C. Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University, has fully cataloged how much data Google is collecting about consumers and their most personal habits across all of its products and how that data is being tied together.
The key findings include:
A dormant, stationary Android phone (with the Chrome browser active in the background) communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period, or at an average of 14 data communications per hour. In fact, location information constituted 35 percent of all the data samples sent to Google.
For comparison’s sake, a similar experiment found that on an iOS device with Safari but not Chrome, Google could not collect any appreciable data unless a user was interacting with the device. Moreover, an idle Android phone running the Chrome browser sends back to Google nearly fifty times as many data requests per hour as an idle iOS phone running Safari.
An idle Android device communicates with Google nearly 10 times more frequently as an Apple device communicates with Apple servers. These results highlighted the fact that Android and Chrome platforms are critical vehicles for Google’s data collection. Again, these experiments were done on stationary phones with no user interactions. If you actually use your phone the information collection increases with Google.
Google has the ability to associate anonymous data collected through passive means with the personal information of the user. Google makes this association largely through advertising technologies, many of which Google controls. Advertising identifiers—which are purportedly “user anonymous” and collect activity data on apps and third-party webpage visits—can get associated with a user’s real Google identity through passing of device-level identification information to Google servers by an Android device.
Likewise, the DoubleClick cookie ID—which tracks a user’s activity on the third-party webpages—is another purportedly “user anonymous” identifier that Google can associate to a user’s Google account. It works when a user accesses a Google applica
Lyons said she soon realized that many people were reporting posts as false simply because they did not agree with the content. Because Facebook forwards posts that are marked as false to third-party fact-checkers, she said it was important to build systems to assess whether the posts were likely to be false to make efficient use of fact-checkers’ time. That led her team to develop ways to assess whether the people who were flagging posts as false were themselves trustworthy.
“One of the signals we use is how people interact with articles,” Lyons said in a follow-up email. “For example, if someone previously gave us feedback that an article was false and the article was confirmed false by a fact-checker, then we might weight that person’s future false-news feedback more than someone who indiscriminately provides false-news feedback on lots of articles, including ones that end up being rated as true.”
For almost five decades, the United States has guided the growth of the Internet. From its origins as a small Pentagon program to its status as a global platform that connects more than half of the world’s population and tens of billions of devices, the Internet has long been an American project. Yet today, the United States has ceded leadership in cyberspace to China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has outlined his plans to turn China into a “cyber-superpower.” Already, more people in China have access to the Internet than in any other country, but Xi has grander plans. Through domestic regulations, technological innovation, and foreign policy, China aims to build an “impregnable” cyberdefense system, give itself a greater voice in Internet governance, foster more world-class companies, and lead the globe in advanced technologies.
China’s continued rise as a cyber-superpower is not guaranteed. Top-down, state-led efforts at innovation in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, and other ambitious technologies may well fail. Chinese technology companies will face economic and political pressures as they globalize. Chinese citizens, although they appear to have little expectation of privacy from their government, may demand more from private firms. The United States may reenergize its own digital diplomacy, and the U.S. economy may rediscover the dynamism that allowed it create so much of the modern world’s technology.
But given China’s size and technological sophistication, Beijing has a good chance of succeeding—thereby remaking cyberspace in its own image. If this happens, the Internet will be less global and less open. A major part of it will run Chinese applications over Chinese-made hardware. And Beijing will reap the economic, diplomatic, national security, and intelligence benefits that once flowed to Washington.
Car makers are collecting massive amounts of data from the latest cars on the road. Now, they’re figuring out how to make money off it.
With millions of cars rolling off dealer lots with built-in connectivity, auto companies are gaining access to unprecedented amounts of real-time data that allow them to track everything from where a car is located to how hard it is braking and whether or not the windshield wipers are on.
Conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the NHTS is the authoritative source on the travel behavior of the American public. It is the only source of national data that allows one to analyze trends in personal and household travel. It includes daily non-commercial travel by all modes, including characteristics of the people traveling, their household, and their vehicles.
This paper is concerned with how future cities have been visualised, what these projections sought to communicate and why.
The paper is organised into eight sections. Each of the first seven sections is highly illustrated by relevant visualisations to capture the main ways in which the thematic content is evident within future cities. We present a brief summary at the end of each section to understand the key issues.
First, we describe the relevance and power of imagined cities and urban visions throughout popular culture, a multi-disciplinary discourse, along with an explanation of the methods used.
Second, we examine the role of different media and its influence upon the way in which ideas are communicated and also translated, including, but not limited to: diagrams, drawings, films, graphic novels, literature, paintings, and photomontages.
Third, we interrogate the ‘groundedness’ of visualisations of future cities and whether they relate to a specific context or a more general set of conditions.
Fourth, we identify the role of technological speculation in future city scenarios including: infrastructure, mobility, sustainability, built form, density and scale.
Fifth, we examine the variations in socio-spatial relationships that occur across different visualisations of cities, identifying the lived experience and inhabitation of the projected environments.
Sixth, we consider the relationship of data, ubiquitous computing and digital technologies in contemporary visualisations of cities.
Seventh, we establish the overarching themes that appear derived from visualisations of British cities and their legacy.
In conclusion, we establish a synthesis of the prevalent patterns within and across legacies, and the diversity of visualisations, to draw together our findings in relation to overarching narratives and themes for how urban life has been envisaged and projected for the period under scrutiny.
As Canadian cities struggle to find solutions to traffic-related pedestrian and cycling deaths, New York City is touting its remarkable four-year turnaround in making its streets safer — something the mayor says is the result of going all in on a Sweden-conceived road safety program.
New York credits its “Vision Zero” program for a 44 per cent drop in pedestrian deaths since 2014, with overall traffic fatalities down by 27 per cent. The first half of 2018 has seen the fewest traffic-related fatalities in any six-month period ever measured in America’s most populated city, officials say.
“The last time city streets were this safe, people were getting around in a horse and buggy,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this year.
Vision Zero’s goal is to reframe how cities look at traffic fatalities — not as “accidents” but preventable incidents that can be addressed through a combined approach involving road design, public outreach and increased enforcement.
And some long-term residents and likely voters speaking with the San Francisco Examiner — older constituents and homeowners — are grateful for that opposition.
“You could look at a Ford GoBike map and draw supervisorial districts, you know what I mean?” said Randy Rentschler, director of legislation and public affairs with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which negotiated Ford GoBike’s exclusivity contract to provide docked bikeshare within the Bay Area.
The latest politico to block Ford GoBike expansion is Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents District 2, which includes the Marina and Pacific Heights, among other neighborhoods.
Stefani announced that she halted plans to install three Ford GoBike stations in a newsletter to her constituents on July 26 at Bay and Fillmore streets, Clay and Steiner streets, and Laguna and Washington streets.
“My office received many responses from residents and community organizations who expressed concern over the proposed locations and lack of community outreach performed by the (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) and Ford GoBike operator Motivate,” she wrote to her constituents. SFMTA “recognized” the community concerns, she wrote, and “as of now, the SFMTA and Motivate have halted plans to install any stations in District 2 and will not do so in the future without consulting my office and the community.”
Parking eats up an incredible amount of space and costs America’s cities an extraordinary amount of money. That’s the main takeaway of a new study that looks in detail at parking in five U.S. cities: New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Des Moines, and Jackson, Wyoming.
The study, by Eric Scharnhorst of the Research Institute for Housing America (which is affiliated with the Mortgage Bankers of America), uses data from satellite images, the U.S. Census, property tax assessment offices, city departments of transportation, parking authorities, and geospatial maps like Google Maps to generate inventories of parking for these five cities. (The inventories include on-street parking spaces, off-street surface parking lots, and off-street parking structures.)
The other drivers wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual as the two sleek limousines with German license plates joined the traffic on France’s Autoroute 1.
But what they were witnessing — on that sunny, fall day in 1994 — was something many of them would have dismissed as just plain crazy.
It had taken a few phone calls from the German car lobby to get the French authorities to give the go-ahead. But here they were: two gray Mercedes 500 SELs, accelerating up to 130 kilometers per hour, changing lanes and reacting to other cars — autonomously, with an onboard computer system controlling the steering wheel, the gas pedal and the brakes.
Decades before Google, Tesla and Uber got into the self-driving car business, a team of German engineers led by a scientist named Ernst Dickmanns had developed a car that could navigate French commuter traffic on its own.
The story of Dickmann’s invention, and how it came to be all but forgotten, is a neat illustration how technology sometimes progresses: not in small steady steps, but in booms and busts, in unlikely advances and inevitable retreats —“one step forward and three steps back,” as one AI researcher put it.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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’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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.