How a hacked password can unlock a Tesla car

Graham Cluley:

So, if you’re unlucky enough to have your password stolen or cracked, a criminal can gain access to your Tesla car. In fact, they can unlock it “from afar” if they wish.
 You can also have your movements tracked by a jealous partner or malicious stalker, or a prankster could make your car honk its horn or open the panoramic roof in the rain.
 Oh, the jolly japes that could be had with this… especially as the vast majority of people either choose dumb, easy-to-guess passwords or re-use passwords in multiple places. Not to mention those folks who leave their unlocked iPhones just lying around for anyone to abuse.
 Yes, you might be wondering why you would ever need an iPhone app to unlock your car, or to heat its seats, but stop being such a kill-joy. This is the “internet of things” and it’s progress ™.
 Dhanjani’s research, which he revealed at a conference in Singapore, raised concerns about Tesla’s security, including that the Tesla website does not appear to lockout users after multiple incorrect login attempts – opening a window of opportunity for brute-force password cracking attacks.

U.S. Regulators to Require Rear-Visibility Technology in Vehicles

Christina Rogers:

U.S. safety regulators issued a new and long-awaited rule Monday to require auto makers to install rear-visibility technology in all new vehicles starting May 2018, the latest in an effort to reduce injuries and deaths caused by backup accidents.

The rule requires all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds to come equipped with technology that allows the driver to detect objects or people in a 10-by-20-foot zone behind it, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of back over accidents—our children and seniors,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

The agency estimates that backup accidents on average kill 210 people and cause 15,000 injuries a year. About one-third of those deaths are children under age 5, the agency found.

Replace rear view mirrors with cameras?

David Shephardson:

@auto_alliance petitions US to allow automakers to remove side-view mirrors, replace them with cameras that may expand side vision

Another Debt-Fueled (auto) Spending Spree?

Atif Mian & Amir Sufi

Spending on new vehicles has been a bright spot for the U.S. retail sector. March sales estimates come out on Tuesday, and most expect a strong recovery after sales were depressed by the bitterly cold months of January and February.
 But a closer look at the data on new auto purchases reveals some potential worries. Nothing is conclusive at this point, but there is a chance we are seeing another debt-fueled spending spree that will prove unsustainable. We are going to take a closer look at some micro data in the next couple of weeks, but thought we would outline the case based on the aggregate data.
 New auto purchases have driven the consumer spending recovery to a large degree. The chart below shows the spending recovery for new auto sales and for all other retail spending. We index both series to be 100 in 2009, so the percentage change from any year to 2009 can be seen by taking the value for that year and subtracting 100.

Out of Gas: Most Americans Can’t Afford New Cars

Ben Popken:

For many Americans, a car isn’t a way to get from point A to point B, it’s freedom. The promise of an automobile goes beyond the thrill of the open road or being able to get a late-night pint of ice cream when you want. With a car, you’ve arrived. And with a car, you can always leave. Social mobility, a new life in a new town, used to be just a black ribbon of interstate away.
 Now, amid stagnant wages and a shaky recovery, the average new car price rose last year by $1,536.
 “Americans can only afford used cars,” said Louis Hyman, an assistant professor in the labor relations, law, and history department at Cornell University. “The recovery has only been for those at the top and not for normal Americans.”
 Car ownership has long sat at the core of what it means to “make it” in this country. If you want to get to and around the suburbs, you’ll need to drive.

Tesla Motors plans to debut cheaper car in early 2015

David Undercoffler:

Building a third, more affordable vehicle will require Tesla to find the sweet spot in combining battery size, capacity and cost.
 The automaker will need to squeeze a 200-mile driving range out of a battery that’s smaller than currently available in the Model S, which has a maximum EPA-rated range of 265 miles.
 “That’s pretty ambitious to get there,” Koslowski said. “One hundred to 120 miles of range isn’t enough for mainstream consumers to really feel comfortable.”
 A $40,000 car with a 200-mile range would give Tesla a significant competitive advantage, as mainstream automakers probably will not hit those cost and range targets for at least another year or two, Koslowski said.
 Also important for Tesla’s success will be its ability to ramp up production to a much higher level. The current Model S is built at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., plant and uses only about a quarter of the facility’s 5 million square feet of space. This is where the Model X will also be built.

Cursory Evaluation of the Tesla Model S: We Can’t Protect Our Cars Like We Protect Our Workstations

Nitesh Dhanjani::

The innovation behind Tesla’s electric vehicles has set us in the right direction towards a more sustainable future. What Elon Musk is doing with Tesla and SpaceX is inspirational and a triumph for humankind.
 Given the fantastic future of IoT (Internet of Things) devices ahead of us, it is the responsibility of the security community and device manufacturers to do our best to enable these devices securely. The IoT devices in scope include remotely controllable thermostats, baby monitors, light bulbs, door locks, cars, and many more. The impact of security vulnerabilities targeting such devices can lead be physical in nature in addition to contributing to loss of privacy.
 The purpose of this document is to outline the mechanisms by which the Tesla Model S communicates with car owners and the Tesla infrastructure using a variety of TCP/IP mechanisms. The goal of this document is to advise the owners on security issues they should be aware of as well as to kick off a dialogue between security researchers and Tesla Motors that will ultimately drive deeper analysis and assurance.

Photographing A Town That Never Was

Meta Picture:

Artist and photographer Michael Paul Smith has spent hours upon hours photographing one special town that he holds very dear to his heart. There is something that always drew him to it, and the images he created are simple, but stunning. They glow with small-town charm and innocence, reminiscent of days and decades past.

Tesla’s Giga-Plan Looks Too Ambitious; a $5 billion investment in a Gigafactory could yield similarly lousy returns unless Musk sells 500,000 cars annually, Financialization

Bill Alpert:

Tesla doubters have been wrong on more than the stock. The Palo Alto, Calif., auto maker delivered almost 22,500 Model S sedans in 2013, more than $2 billion worth, to surpass North American sales of comparably priced Audis and Porsches. So when Musk says that he’ll lop 30% off battery costs with a “Gigafactory,” the world pays heed. Four states are bidding for the plant, which by 2020 would exceed the lithium-battery production of all the world’s current factories combined. “The scale of what he’s talking about is outside of what’s been discussed by anybody in my 20 years in the business,” says Menahem Anderman, whose Oregon House, Calif., firm, Total Battery Consulting, runs international conferences on battery technology. “But maybe that’s what it takes to start up an electric-vehicle business.”

Could the Gigafactory bend the lithium battery’s stiff cost curve? Tesla hasn’t responded to Barron’s queries since Musk hung up on us in an interview last spring. However, battery veterans agree that such a factory might achieve the promised economies—but only if Tesla can sell the half-million cars per year that would keep the plant running at capacity. Tesla’s stock price seems to take 500,000 sales for granted. Sales of battery-powered cars will hopefully increase in coming years—last year they totaled about 100,000 worldwide. And, by the time Tesla delivers the thrifty Gen III car in three or four years,competitive products will appear from worthy rivals like BMW (BMW.Germany), with lithium batteries from Samsung SDI (006400.Korea) and LG Chem (051910.Korea).

Investors needn’t wait until 2020 to handicap Musk’s chances. In the next few months, we’ll know whether Tesla finds partners for the $4 billion to $5 billion project. Questions about the Gigafactory figured prominently at a Thursday news conference in Tokyo by Tesla battery supplier Panasonic (6752.Japan). Although it is expanding production in Japan to meet Tesla’s rising orders, while shedding some consumer businesses, the electronics giant only just returned to profitability. Panasonic tells Barron’s that it hasn’t decided whether to invest in the costly Gigafactory.

Wall Street and Telsa’s auto-industry rivals will watch to see how strong sales are this year for the Model S, and next year for the Model X, a crossover that may be a bit pricier. Tesla expects to deliver more than 35,000 cars this year, as it tests new markets in Europe and Asia. North America took almost 19,000 of the sporty sedans last year. Although Tesla doesn’t report monthly sales, the market researchers at Malvern, Pa.-based Auto Outlook count new Tesla registrations. In 2013’s second half, the monthly tally showed Tesla sales to be flat at best in key markets like California. In its year-end conference call, Tesla said that it is delaying North American deliveries to supply cars to Europe—leading some observers to expect noticeably longer waiting times in North America. But a team of buy-side researchers tells Barron’s that its survey of Tesla sales locations finds wait times unchanged from last year—puzzling if demand is unabated.


TESLA SHARES SPIKED from $217 to $265 in late February, after Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote that the Gigafactory plan increased his valuation from $153 to $320. Two days later, with the shares at $252, his investment-banking colleagues helped Tesla sell $2 billion in convertible debt. The Morgan Stanley report was light on economic details

Tesla Adds Titanium Underbody Shield and Aluminum Deflector Plates to Model S

Elon Musk:

In 2013, two extremely unusual Model S collisions resulted in underbody damage that led to car fires. These incidents, unfortunately, received more national headlines than the other 200,000 gasoline car fires that happened last year in North America alone. In both cases, the occupants walked away unharmed, thanks to the car’s safety features. The onboard computer warned the occupants to exit the vehicles, which they did well before any fire was noticeable. However, even if the occupants had remained in the vehicle and the fire department had not arrived, they would still have been safely protected by the steel and ceramic firewall between the battery pack and the passenger compartment.
 It is important to note that there have been no fire injuries (or serious, permanent injuries of any kind) in a Tesla at all. The odds of fire in a Model S, at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car and, when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small. However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact.
 Nonetheless, we felt it was important to bring this risk down to virtually zero to give Model S owners complete peace of mind. Starting with vehicle bodies manufactured as of March 6, all cars have been outfitted with a triple underbody shield. Tesla service will also retrofit the shields, free of charge, to existing cars upon request or as part of a normally scheduled service.

IBM to start crunching connected car data for Peugeot

Kevin Fitchard:

IBM and French automaker Peugeot have started collaborating on the connected car. The companies announced this week that IBM will apply its data analytics to a variety of vehicle and transportation technologies, ranging from information collected from Peugeot’s in-vehicle sensors to networked traffic infrastructure.
 The idea is that it’s not just our cars that benefit from being connected; traffic lights, highway sensors and bridges can produce a tremendous amount of data, which can be coupled with information gleaned from smartphones and other sources to paint a precise picture of the road conditions, traffic congestion and even pedestrian activity on any given thoroughfare.

How might a public market investor invest in self-driving cars?

Sam Gerstenzang:

I am not convinced that the winner will be Google, nor can I can choose between the existing car manufacturers. If you were to attempt to invest in self-driving cars as a phenomenon, what would you invest in? What is a proxy investment for the public investor?
 Below are a few of my investment ideas, although I’m afraid all are subject to many other forces beyond self-driving cars. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below or via email– what is the purest proxy for self-driving cars?
 Suburban housing… self-driving cars will mean less time spent driving and parking, meaning living further away from urban centers will be more tolerable. Expect suburban property values at medium distances from major cities to increase in value.

via Ben Thompson.

BMW i8 Powertrain, Performance & Endurance

Georg Kacher:

After no more than 30 minutes in total, the psychedelic plaything suddenly slips into limp-home mode. The range indicator is down to one kilometre, first gear only reluctantly picks up speed, the battery harbours around 10% of capacity, and the display suggests we contact the nearest dealer. What would you do with a complex electronic device at home? Turn it off, then on again, of course. Then select Sport, and two laps at seven-tenths restores the battery. The petrol engine drives the high-voltage generator to replenish the charge, and it’s as hush-quiet as it is free of any coupling or decoupling irritations. But it’s not as efficient as hooking up to a charge point though, cutting economy to around 37mpg.

Heavy Politics & Cars: Texas Gov. Rick Perry: The Pros Of Allowing Tesla To Sell Direct To Customers Outweigh The Cons

Dana Hull:

In the which-state-will-land-Tesla’s gigafactory bracket, we’ve got four contenders: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. Tesla is currently unable to sell its vehicles directly to customers in Texas. Each state is eager to land the $5 billion factory and the 6,500 highly desirable manufacturing jobs that come with it.
 “I think it’s time for Texans to have a very open conversation about this and talk about the pros and the cons,” said Texas Governor Rick Perry in a conversation Monday with FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “I’m going to think that the pros of allowing this to happen are going to outweigh the cons.”

How Tesla’s Fight With Car Dealers Could Help Decide the Next President

Marcus Wohlsen:

Mitt Romney famously called Tesla Motors a “loser” company during his run for president. He lost, of course, and Tesla is by any measure winning. And so we see would-be presidential candidates lining up behind the Silicon Valley carmaker as its fight against auto dealers becomes a potential breakout issue in the 2016 election.
 In dispute are bans several states have against Tesla stores selling cars directly from the company instead of through third-party dealers. The most recent ban was enacted in New Jersey with the support of Gov. Chris Christie, a possible contender for the GOP nomination. That prompted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Christie rival, to heartily defend Tesla’s direct sales model.
 “It’s an established product,” Rubio told CNBC. “Customers should be allowed to buy products that fit their need, especially a product that we know is safe and has consumer confidence beneath it.”
 Perhaps even more surprising was the love shown by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the once and possibly future presidential hopeful whose oil-rich state bars employees in Tesla’s two showrooms from even telling potential customers how much the Model S costs. On second thought, maybe it isn’t at all surprising. Texas is a leading candidate for Tesla’s planned $5 billion battery factory, which would bring thousands of jobs to the state. Perry said Texas should revisit its ban on direct sales of Teslas.

N.J. bill would let Tesla sell cars directly, reversing ban

Automotive News:

A New Jersey lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow Tesla Motors Inc. to continue selling its electric vehicles directly to consumers, a practice banned by the state two weeks ago.
 Assemblyman Tim Eustace’s bill follows the March 11 vote of the eight-member state Motor Vehicle Commission, which consists of members of Gov. Chris Christie’s cabinet and other gubernatorial appointees, to block Tesla’s business model that circumvents the use of traditional dealerships.
 “Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car,” Eustace said in a statement. “How does sending business to other states help New Jersey’s economy?”

How A New Generation Of Sub-Prime Auto Financing Could Cause Another Catastrophe

Derek Kreindler:

March was the 5th straight month of a SAAR above 15 million vehicles. Industry analysts have explained the strength of the market in a number of ways. The need to replace older vehicles is one (new car sales were hit hard during the recession as consumers held on to their vehicles for longer. This also caused used car prices to skyrocket, something TTAC has been documenting), while others have cited increasing fleet demand, and the desire to replace vehicles damaged in Hurricane Sandy.
 But one factor that is just starting to get attention outside of TTAC is sub-prime financing. Sub-prime lending, which involves giving high-interest loans to customers with poor credit scores, is driving the SAAR in a big way, by letting buyers with poor credit purchase new cars. In turn, the sub-prime bubble is being driven by Wall Street, whose clients cannot get enough of financial instruments backed by sub-prime auto loans.
 On the surface, it seems unbelievable. Unemployment is at 7.7 percent, and even higher according to some pundits. Taxes are going up, wages are stagnant, the economy hasn’t really recovered according to many. And yet auto sales – for many people, the second biggest purchase they’ll ever make – are on a hot streak, rebounding back close to pre-recession levels.
 Sub-prime loans, defined as a loan given to anyone with a credit score under 660, are now bigger than ever. In Q2 of 2012, new car sub-prime loans accounted for a quarter of of all loans, while 56 percent of used car loans went to sub-prime buyers.There’s even a new category called “deep subprime”, for auto loans issued to buyers with credit scores below 600. These loans account for nearly 11 percent of all car loans, despite the fact that a 600 credit score is considered abysmal.

BMW Makes Lone Shift to Carbon Fiber to Gain Auto Edge

Chris Reiter:

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s bid to save its cars from potential extinction starts with hundreds of thousands of fine white strands snaking upwards in a production hall in rural Washington.
 Looped through an almost mile-long course, what looks like the world’s thinnest rice noodles will be stretched, toasted and eventually scorched black to create carbon fiber — a material thinner than human hair and yet tougher than steel.
 BMW will use the sleek, black filaments for the passenger frame of the i3 electric car, which goes on sale at dealers in Germany tomorrow and around the world in the coming months. It’s the first effort to mass produce a car made largely from carbon fiber and represents the biggest shift in automobile production since at least the 1980s when the first all-aluminum car frames were made.

Via Tom van Avondt

GM Commentary on auto-ecosystems, car sharing

Ina Fried:

Ammann said that GM is a part of Google’s Open Automotive Alliance and has also worked with Apple to bring Siri to some of its cars.

“We are engaged with all the major players you would expect,” Ammann said. He also said that the company wants to ensure whatever system it puts in a car can accommodate shifts in the types of phones people use.

Ammann agreed with a rival carmaker that autonomous cars will arrive by 2020, but also said that they won’t drop in like something out of the Jetsons. Instead, he noted that cars have been slowly adding individual autonomous capabilities ever since anti-lock braking arrived 20 years ago.

If Cars Really Could Drive Themselves, How Many Would We Need?

Rebecca Rosen:

If self-driving cars become a reliable, safe, legal technology, here’s a vision of what cities may someday look like.
 There are no downtown parking lots or parking lanes.
 There is no mall parking, no grocery-store parking, no airport parking.
 There are no home garages where your car sits unused whenever you’re home. In fact, you probably won’t own a car at all.
 Instead, you’ll just request a ride (presumably on an app), and a car will appear at your doorstep. Once it drops you off, it’ll turn to the next request. If there are none nearby, it may be rerouted to areas where demand is anticipated soon (say downtown before the evening rush), put to use delivering lunches or orders, or sent to a large open lot in the suburbs where it will wait to be beckoned.

Via Paul Brody.

Volkswagen Announces Plans to Work on Lithium-Air Batteries

Andrew English:

Volkswagen is bench testing new battery chemistry capable of providing “between three and four times the power” from a given capacity. This would mean up to 80kWh from a similar volume occupied by the current Golf Blue-e-motion’s 26.5kWh battery pack.
 That’s according to Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser, VW board member responsible for development. Speaking at the Geneva motor show, he said that the company has tested lithium-ion batteries with its existing cell supplier (Sanyo) with between 24 and 28kWh and also up to 37kWh, but “an 80kWh unit is under development using our own technology. It would provide between three and four times the battery power in a given package.”

via Steve Crandall.

“There is a portion of the population that is not willing to buy a car, but willing to buy the use of a car”

Claire Bal:

The pay-per-use contract will require C4 Cactus customers to pay a fixed monthly rate that will be lower than the all-inclusive flat rate. But in addition they will incur a monthly fee directly related to distance driven, with nothing owed if the car is not driven during the period.
 Pay-per-use contracts will be offered initially in Spain, Italy and the UK. Availability in other European countries would depend on such factors as the demand in each market, local legislation and reaching agreements with local insurers, Montarnal said.
 “There is a portion of the population that is not willing to buy a car, but willing to buy the use of a car,” Banzet told Automotive News Europe.
 Solutions such as car-sharing schemes and short-term rentals both had drawbacks in terms of vehicle availability and convenience. “We are proposing a way to only pay for the use of the car, while still having it at your disposal whenever you want it,” Banzet said.
 It would be of particular appeal, he added, “for either low-mileage drivers or irregular users of the car, for instance for those who don’t use the car for some months in the year.”
 One the underlying aims of both financing approaches is the avoidance of unpleasant financial surprises at the end of the contract period.

Additional discussion via Derek Kreindler.

The Government Is a Hitman: Uber, Tesla and Airbnb Are in Its Crosshairs

Nick Gillespie:

What the Invisible Hand of free-market innovation giveth, the Dead Hand of politically motivated regulation desperately tries to taketh away.
 That’s the only way to describe what’s happening to three wildly innovative and popular products: the award-winning electric car Tesla, taxi-replacement service Uber, and hotel-alternative Airbnb. These companies are not only revolutionizing their industries via cutting-edge technology and customer-empowering distribution, they’re running afoul of interest groups that are quick to use political muscle to maintain market share and the status quo.
 The battle between what historian Burton W. Folsom calls “market entrepreneurs” and “political entrepreneurs” is an old and ugly one, dating back to the earliest days of the American experiment. Market entrepreneurs make their money by offering customers a good or new service at a good or new price. Political entrepreneurs make their money the old-fashioned way: They use the government to rig markets and kneecap real and potential competitors. In his great 1987 book, The Myth of the Robber Barons, Folsom discusses how the 19th-century steamboat pioneer Robert Fulton quickly went from a market entrepreneur to a political one by securing a 30-year monopoly from the New York legislature for all steamboat traffic in the Empire State.
 Especially in today’s sluggish economy, it’s more important than ever that market innovators win out over crony capitalists. Letting markets work to find new ways of delivering goods and services isn’t just better for customers in the short term, it’s the only way to unleash the innovation that ultimately propels long-term economic growth. After all, no country has ever regulated its way out of a recession.

Tesla’s bet on winning the global lithium race

Clay Dillow:

The world’s largest lithium-ion battery factory—a 10-million-square-foot so-called Gigafactory planned by Tesla Motors for 2017—will eventually produce more battery power each year than was produced globally in 2013.
 The factory would provide an in-house solution to a persistent supply-chain problem for Tesla, generating enough top-of-the-line lithium-ion battery packs (and then some) to allow Tesla’s assembly lines to roll off as many as half a million electric vehicles per year. It would also make Tesla by far the world’s largest lithium-ion battery-cell supplier. But in ratcheting up battery supply to meet its own growing demand, Tesla faces a new supply-chain challenge: securing enough lithium and other battery-making materials at a low enough cost to keep both the Gigafactory and Tesla’s business model humming.
 Tesla, in a sense, needs to become a master at supply and demand and pricing analysis in fast-growing metals markets to crack the biggest impediment to broader adoption of its cars: a high-cost battery that’s a big part of an EV’s sticker price.

Tesla Can Topple the Car-Dealer Monopoly

Edward Niedermeyer:

Ask any of Tesla’s customers or fans what makes them so enthused about the California car brand, and the answer will almost always have something to do with the all-electric drive-train strategy or the inevitable replacement of gas cars with electric power. Actually, Tesla’s automotive technology is neither completely unique nor guaranteed to put an end to internal combustion (let alone support the firm’s ludicrous market valuation). What is revolutionary, however, is Elon Musk’s desire to build a retail network free from the franchise-dealer monopoly. And, despite some setbacks this week, he might just succeed.
 By attacking the gatekeepers of automotive retail, Tesla is promising not just a unique sales and service experience for its well-off customers, but a more liberalized, competitive market for all car buyers. In this sense, Tesla does indeed hold the promise of a better — if not greener– future.
 The dealers themselves, of course, are none too pleased. And they have one of the best-funded and most active political lobbies in the U.S., even securing for themselves an inexplicable exemption from Consumer Finance Protection Bureau oversight. Worse, Tesla is facing not just a federal-level battle with this implacable foe, but a state-by-state fight as well, with New Jersey and Texas becoming the latest to ban direct sales.

Electric cars can go only half as far in freezing weather, AAA finds

Heather Hunter:

To better understand the impact of climate on electric vehicle batteries, AAA conducted a simulation to measure the driving range of three fully-electric vehicles in cold, moderate and hot weather. Temperature made a big difference in driving range for all three EVs.

Vehicles were tested for city driving to mimic stop-and-go traffic, and to better compare with EPA ratings listed on the window sticker. The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75°F, but dropped 57 percent to 43 miles when the temperature was held steady at 20°F. Warm temperatures were less stressful on battery range, but still delivered a lower average of 69 miles per full charge at 95°F.

AAA performed testing between December 2013 and January 2014. Each vehicle completed a driving cycle for moderate, hot and cold climates following standard EPA-DOE test procedures. The vehicles were fully charged and then “driven” on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully exhausted.

AAA has initiated several projects including mobile recharging units and EV charging stations to support members who drive electric vehicles. EVs provide owners with many benefits, but every motorist needs to be aware of conditions that can impact vehicle driving range. EV drivers need to plan carefully in hot and cold weather. Mapping tools such as the AAA TripTik® Travel Planner pinpoint charging stations to keep motorists on the go.


French Taxi Wars: A case study of vested interests trying to fight off new competitors

The Economist:

“PARIS is the only city in the world where it is hard to find a taxi.” So in 2008 said an embarrassed Nicolas Sarkozy, then France’s president, exasperated by the near-impossibility of hailing a cab on the capital’s streets. He vowed to fix the problem, but backed down after cabbies blocked the streets during days of protest. Six years on, his Socialist successor, François Hollande, is again facing up to taxi drivers, this time as incumbents try to keep out smartphone-enabled private cabs.
 In rolling strikes this week, scores of licensed taxi drivers jammed the traffic by blocking intermittently the ring-road or périphérique, access to airports and the Place de la Concorde. Their gripe? The emergence of new private cab services, known as voitures de tourisme avec chauffeur, which can be ordered via a mobile app. With 17,600 licensed taxis, the Paris region is not far off London’s total of 22,000 black cabs. But the French capital has a dearth of minicabs: just a few thousand, against 50,000 in London. Until recently, it has been all but impossible in Paris to pre-book reasonably priced, fixed-fare trips.

Google’s Page: “Launch Automated Cars by 2017”


Google plans to launch its automated cars on the roads by 2017. The project has been a personal obsession for 18 years, he told the Ted audience.
 “It started when I was at college in Michigan. I was waiting for the bus and it was cold and snowing,” he said.
 He believes that automated cars can help save lives – currently 20 million people are injured each ear in car accidents and in the US crashes are the biggest cause of death for the under 35s.
 He finished the interview with a call to firms to embrace new technologies.
 “Most businesses fail because they miss the future,” he said.

via Tabdump.

What the world will look like if Elon Musk becomes the next Henry Ford

John Mcduling:

Analysts are coming up with increasingly entertaining ways to justify Tesla’s enormous valuation and lofty share price, and who are we to disagree with them?
 Recently, Morgan Stanley outlined an interesting thesis on how Tesla could become a serious player in the energy market, through the production of its own batteries, and because its cars could be used for power storage. Today, it’s Goldman Sachs’s turn. The investment bank’s analysts are similarly upbeat on the electric vehicle maker’s ability to reshape everything, outlining scenarios where CEO Elon Musk could replicate the success of some truly disruptive entrepreneurs, namely Steve Jobs and Henry Ford.
 Comparing smartphones to electric cars might seem ridiculous, but Goldman says its analysis has been adjusted to reflect the different life cycles of these two products. And if the sales of Tesla cars were to grow at the same rate as the iPhone, it would be selling 3.1 million units a year by 2025—up from 22,000 last year —which would be 65.5% of all electric vehicles, or about 2.7% of all light vehicle sales, according to the analysis.

via Paul Brody.

Auto dealers fire back at Tesla CEO: ‘This Musk guy, he wants all the profits for himself’

Ben Popper:

Last week, New Jersey announced that it would begin enforcing a ban on the direct sale of automobiles by manufacturers, a change that will cripple electric-vehicle maker Tesla’s business in that state. The company’s CEO, Elon Musk, responded with a fiery blog post accusing state legislators of cutting a backroom deal with traditional franchised auto retailers — retailers with which Tesla has consistently refused to do business — and playing by “mafia” rules. It was tough talk from a a brilliant and powerful billionaire, but the Garden State’s car salesmen aren’t taking the criticism lying down.

“He needs to stop and take a breath,” said Jim Appleton, the president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automobile Retails, or NJ CAR. “If you’re an internet billionaire, maybe you think the world revolves around you, and the world springs from your laptop. Well, I got news for him. This is not a new law, Tesla is operating illegally, and as of April 1st, they will be out of business unless they decide to open a franchise.”

Appleton is right that New Jersey had a law on the books banning direct sales from manufacturers, but that was a relic of a bygone era before dealerships were a firmly cemented incumbent. The state’s motor vehicle commission had issued two licenses to Tesla to operate its own stores in New Jersey. Given the recent rule change, however, those licenses will not be renewed when they expire on April 1st.

An impending black swan for electric cars


The black swan we are talking about here isn’t a car but a power train and probably more specifically a battery technology. All that’s required for electric car to really break out is a way to make cheaper batteries and I am sure that’s coming.

Elon Musk of Tesla says he is going to make that happen by building a $5 billion lithium-ion battery factory, driving down the cost of manufacturing. This will work, I’m sure, and I applaud Elon for his commitment. But I strongly suspect that it will end up being a $5 billion boondoggle. The better approach would be to abandon lithium-ion for a superior battery technology.

There are dozens of startups working today on alternative battery chemistries intended to dramatically increase the range and decrease the cost of electric cars. I don’t know which of these will ultimately dominate but I am sure one will which is why I can be so confident in predicting a black swan. With dozens of groups working on the problem and an eventual market worth probably $1 trillion I have no doubt there will be a solution within the next couple of years.

California Bill would give auto owners more control over vehicle data

Marc Lifsher:

California’s two giant automobile clubs proposed legislation Tuesday that would give car owners more control over computer and Internet data streaming from their vehicles.
 About 1 in 5 new cars already collect and transmit to manufacturers data about engine performance, safe or unsafe driving maneuvers, cellphone or entertainment system usage and location. By 2025, every passenger auto is expected to be a “connected car” that’s in constant contact with the Internet and even with nearby cars.
 “Our cars are quickly becoming mobile computers,” said bill author Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel). “While this technology provides several important benefits to consumers, it is imperative that there are basic safeguards in place to ensure consumers can decide who has access to their data” and what information should remain private.

“It’s the iPad of Cars”

Jonathan Yarwood. Related: the Asymcar 11 and the i3 Long Bet

Ready to get your Tesla on the road in Beijing? Think again

Chris Luo:

Retired middle school teacher Zhang Heping has given some serious thought to buying her first car. A Beijing resident aged 61, she has decided she wants an electric one. And she has a good cause – protecting the environment.
 The deal is financially attractive too. To buy an E150 EV model made by the Beijing Automotive Group, she can benefit from a 95,000 yuan (HK$121,000) government subsidy, which is 40 per cent of the original price. She can also apply for a licence plate almost instantly, unlike those pursuing petrol cars who need to first win a lottery, with the odds of winning being just 0.8 per cent, as the Beijing government is limiting the number of cars on the road to rein in the city’s notorious traffic congestion and air pollution.
 But in reality, Zhang soon found herself facing some obstacles.
 “Both the limited travel distance and lack of charging infrastructures are my biggest concerns,” she said in a telephone interview with the South China Morning Post.
 Most electric cars on sales in China are capable of sustaining a travel distance of between 80 and 300 kilometres. But because there are only a small number of public charging stations designed for private car users, the vehicles’ ranges are really just limited to around 100 kilometres from their homes.
 “I will be really glad if distances of electric cars can be enhanced to 400 or 500 kilometres one day, so that at least I can make a round trip from inner city areas to suburban ones,” said Zhang, who has recently bought a new house in a southern Beijing district.
 Peng Pei, a 28-year old public servant at a municipal engineering office who lives in Beijing, says the Tesla Model S is her dream car.
 “Its design looks so cool,” said Peng who was drawn to its innovative design and cutting-edge technology. “It is definitely an embodiment of the future… a running iPad.” she said.


2014 Global Symposium on Connected Vehicles & Infrastructure

 UMTRI, via kind email:

Register now for the 2014 Global Symposium on Connected Vehicles and Infrastructure and workshop on the Energy and Environmental Implications on Automated Transportation
 The Symposium will bring together leading industry, academic and policy experts to discuss and strategize how connected technology is transforming the transportation industry.
 The Workshop will provide leading analysts in energy an opportunity for in-depth conversations on the research landscape.
 The Symposium runs April 21-23, 2014 with the special energy workshop beginning at 1:30 on Wednesday, April 23.
 Please follow the links to register for these industry leading events.

Has motorization in the U.S. peaked? Part 4: households without a light-duty vehicle

Michael Sivak:

Abstract: Recent studies have shown that—per person, per driver, and per household—we now have fewer light-duty vehicles, we drive each of them less, and we consume less fuel than in the past. These trends suggest that motorization in the U.S. might have reached a peak several years ago. The present study examined recent trends in the proportion of households without a light duty vehicle as another index of the motorization level. Two analyses were performed. The first analysis examined the changes in this proportion for the entire U.S. from 2005 through 2012. The second analysis studied the variations in this proportion among the 30 largest U.S. cities for 2007 (the year with the lowest overall proportion) and 2012 (the latest available year). The data came from the American Community Survey. The main findings are as follows: (1) In 2012, 9.2% of U.S. households were without a vehicle, compared to 8.7% in 2007 (the year with the lowest recent proportion). (2) The proportion of households without a vehicle varies greatly among the 30 largest U.S. cities: In 2012, the maximum was 56.5% (in New York) and the minimum was 5.8% (in San Jose). (3) In six of the 30 cities, more than 30% of households do not have a vehicle. (4) From 2007 to 2012, there was an increase in the proportion of households without a vehicle in 21 of the 30 cities examined. (5) The 13 cities with the largest proportions all showed an increase from 2007 to 2012. The recent increase in the proportion of households without a vehicle provides additional support for the hypothesis that motorization in the U.S. peaked during the previous decade.

Tesla Keeps Poaching Prius Buyers, and It’s Not Slowing Down

Damon Lavrinc:

Tesla Motors sold 22,477 Model S sedans last year. As you’d imagine, many of the people buying the super-luxe car owned German vehicles before going electric. But many more of them owned a Toyota Prius.
 Al Pace was among them. Pace, a real estate developer from Palo Alto, California, was a longtime fan of the little hybrid that could. He’d owned two of them in the six years before buying his Pearl White Model S P85. He loved the Prius, but kept a close eye on Tesla as it launched the Model S. He placed a deposit and rescinded it, twice, before pulling the trigger early last year.
 “Two things served as a catalyst for me to get over the hump,” Pace tells WIRED. “I needed something larger, and about that time, Elon Musk made the commitment to back it financially.” That was the clincher and he couldn’t be happier.
 “I’ve been the beneficiary of a number of nice cars over the years, but I like [the Model S] more and more,” says Pace. “It gets better as I drive it. There’s this ongoing subtle reveal of nuanced engineering. It’s a kind of automotive strip tease.”
 Pace is a typical Tesla customer. Most of Teslas’ conquest sales–sales made to customers who previously owned another brand–are from Toyota, according to Polk Automotive. Of those, Prius defectors lead the pack.

Parisians driven to revolt by car ban in fight against pollution

Anne Penketh:

The famously testy Parisians have one more reason to grumble after the French government announced that half the cars in the city would be banned from the roads, starting on Monday, in an effort to combat smog pollution.
 From 5.30am, a scheme of alternating driving days, based on odd and even number plates, will come into effect for cars and motorcycles after Paris pollution reached dangerous levels for five consecutive days.
 Even before the restrictions were announced, Parisians were given free travel on buses, metros and public bikes over the weekend. The smog hanging in a haze over the French capital is the result of a string of warm days and cold nights and has caused the worst pollution levels since 2007.
 A revolutionary streak runs through French society. Rules are made to be broken, as anyone who has tried to use a pedestrian crossing in Paris knows. Parisians interviewed on Sunday said that, particularly in the case of those working in the suburbs, their car is essential for travel and they would be prepared to defy the temporary ban and risk incurring a €22 (£18) fine.

US Car Sharing Means that There are 500,000 Fewer Vehicles on the Road

Ben Schiller:

Driving around U.S. cities, it may not seem like there are fewer cars on the road. Many places are as congested as ever. But a new study suggests that it could be a lot worse. Changing attitudes about owning a vehicle and the rise of sharing services like Zipcar have indeed reduced the number of cars on the road from what otherwise would’ve occurred.
 AlixPartners, a consultancy that has automotive clients, interviewed 1,000 licensed drivers in 10 U.S. metro markets to understand what’s motivating people to use car-sharing services and what effect that’s having on vehicle sales. It estimates there are already 500,000 fewer vehicles on the road because of sharing’s popularity, and that lost sales will only increase. By 2020, it expects 4 million people will be sharing cars, and that there will be 1.2 million fewer cars.

Mercedes or Ford, It Costs a Lot More Than You Think Your Car Could Be Driving Your Budget Into the Ground

Andrea Coombs:

Ever wonder where your money disappears every month? Take a look in your garage.
 Your car could be driving your budget into the ground.
 If you’re driving 15,000 miles a year—not uncommon for an American worker—in a midsize sedan such as a Toyota 7203.TO -2.95% Camry or Ford Fusion, you’ll spend more than $760 a month on average, or $9,150 a year, on gas, maintenance, tires, full-coverage insurance, license and registration costs, depreciation and finance charges.
 That’s according to an annual report by AAA, the auto club, on driving costs in 2013, based on buying a new car and driving it for five years and 75,000 miles.
 But your costs easily could be higher.
 Got an SUV? It will cost you about $967 a month, or $11,600 a year, according to AAA.
 And don’t forget those one-time and infrequent costs not included in the AAA report—say, $10 a pop for a carwash every other month, an occasional parking ticket of, say, $40. Perhaps you’re also shelling out for paid parking at the baseball game or a downtown garage. Add $300 a year for those types of charges. Let’s just say you avoid budget-busting speeding tickets.
 We could add in the square footage of your garage—say 400 square feet at $100 a square foot. That’s $40,000 of your mortgage that’s going to the car.

Why Can’t A Startup Build A Self-Driving Car?

Peter Yared:

On a 10- to 20-year horizon, large-scale technological innovation is going to center around machine intelligence, robotics and sensors. Each of these fields requires gargantuan amounts of capital and a lot of patience, a combination well beyond the scope of even the most progressive venture capital firm.

As Google has demonstrated with its self-driving car, the combination of machine intelligence, robotics and sensors can already perform better than a human at a complex task such as driving a car, something that 10 years ago was unthinkable to most people.

No doubt, Tesla has built an amazing car and after much trial and tribulation, brought it to market. However, General Motors had already shipped a production electric car years before. Tesla took advantage of the innovator’s dilemma, where legacy car companies are virtually incapable of embracing electric-only cars and integrating modern electronics.

Tesla’s roadmap includes “autopilot” and eventually “autonomous” features. Perhaps Tesla also will deliver these features slightly before legacy car manufacturers do, including Mercedes and Lexus, which are aggressively adding similar features. But the winner in this game is Google, which has a multi-year technology lead and can extract enormous licensing fees.

via JLG.

Society Of Automotive Analysts Reliability Study

Society Of Automotive Analysts:

It turns out that Stout Risius Ross, the financial consulting firm that conducted the study, didn’t have access to any proprietary data. Instead, they used recall filings and the manufacturer-level data available in financial statements. Recall filings include the number of cars affected. Annual costs of warranty claims must be disclosed in financial reports. These data tend to be messy, as different companies include different things in these costs; there’s no precise universal standard. Also, multiple model years are often lumped together, and changes in both warranty claims and recalls lag changes in the number of cars sold. Keep these limitations in mind when viewing the “warranty claims as a percentage of revenue” comparison.

Patents & Auto Companies

Florian Mueller:

Just completed my 1st consulting project for a new client, a German automobile manufacturer, about patent licensing. Can’t name the company.

Tesla’s Elon Musk Takes Aim at New Jersey’s Dealer Protection Practices

Richard Waters:

Mr Musk sought to take advantage of his strong personal fan base, built on a devoted following of early Tesla customers and investors in his company, to hit back at the dealers and politicians.

Existing automobile dealers have “a fundamental conflict of interest between promoting gasoline cars, which constitute virtually all of their revenue, and electric cars, which constitute virtually none,” he wrote. The fact that dealers make most of their profits from servicing rather than selling cars also made them less likely to support Tesla, since its cars do not require regular smog checks and other maintenance needed by gasoline powered cars, he added.

The fight with auto dealers has been a long-running issue for Tesla, though it has yet to make a dent in sales, which have outstripped the company’s ability to build new vehicles. However, the company’s plans for the launch in three years of a mass-market electric sedan are likely to put pressure on its existing sales operation.

Murder Machines: Why Cars Will Kill 30,000 Americans This Year

Hunter Oatman-Stanford:

There’s an open secret in America: If you want to kill someone, do it with a car. As long as you’re sober, chances are you’ll never be charged with any crime, much less manslaughter. Over the past hundred years, as automobiles have been woven into the fabric of our daily lives, our legal system has undermined public safety, and we’ve been collectively trained to think of these deaths as unavoidable “accidents” or acts of God. Today, despite the efforts of major public-health agencies and grassroots safety campaigns, few are aware that car crashes are the number one cause of death for Americans under 35. But it wasn’t always this way.
 “At some point, we decided that somebody on a bike or on foot is not traffic, but an obstruction to traffic.”
 “If you look at newspapers from American cities in the 1910s and ’20s, you’ll find a lot of anger at cars and drivers, really an incredible amount,” says Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. “My impression is that you’d find more caricatures of the Grim Reaper driving a car over innocent children than you would images of Uncle Sam.”
 Though various automobiles powered by steam, gas, and electricity were produced in the late 19th century, only a handful of these cars actually made it onto the roads due to high costs and unreliable technologies. That changed in 1908, when Ford’s famous Model T standardized manufacturing methods and allowed for true mass production, making the car affordable to those without extreme wealth. By 1915, the number of registered motor vehicles was in the millions.

The Detroit Electric Automobile: Vintage American know how

Detroit Electric:

An electric car that can go over 200 miles on a single charge?
 What modern day miracle is this?
 What if we told you that this modern day miracle is almost 100 years old? How about a plug in electric car from the early 1900’s? In 1914 a Detroit Electric went 241 miles on a single charge setting a new record! To be fair the car had a top speed of 25 MPH but that was almost 100 years ago and the new electric cars can go maybe 100 miles on a charge, on a good day, downhill, with a little breeze and a nice smooth road. In 1914 they were traveling over dirt roads or maybe at best cobblestone.

via Steve Crandall.

Economic Effects of State Bans on Direct Manufacturer Sales to Car Buyers, +8%

Gerald R. Bodisch:

Automakers General Motors Corporation (GM) and Chrysler LLC have received $17.4 billion in loans under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and have indicated that they may need up to an additional $21.6 billion in federal assistance to restructure their operations.(1) As a condition of the loans, the companies are required to develop plans to achieve profitability. Much attention in the plans has centered on getting labor costs under control. Among other measures addressed are ways to cut distribution costs. As part of its cost-cutting effort, GM has announced that it will reduce its dealership network from over 6,200 dealers today to 4,100. The cost of the auto distribution system in the United States has been estimated as averaging up to 30 percent of vehicle price.(2)
 With dealer networks being rationalized as part of cost-cutting initiatives, direct manufacturer sales to car buyers may present an additional opportunity to lower distribution costs. Such sales might range from consumers’ simply ordering assembled vehicles of their choice directly from automakers to a scenario along the lines of the “Dell Direct” build-to-order model that revolutionized the personal computer production and sale process. GM initiated a build-to-order sales model in Brazil for its Chevrolet Celta economy car over eight years ago. In 2008, the Celta was among the sales leaders in Brazil.(3) At the time of the Celta’s introduction, an auto analyst said that build-to-order could result in “spectacular improvements in the company’s competitiveness and profitability.”(4)
 In the United States, however, direct manufacturer auto sales are prohibited in almost every state by franchise laws requiring that new cars be sold only by dealers. These bans on direct manufacturer sales are part of a broad array of state laws that bar manufacturer ownership of dealers and regulate entry and exit of dealers through territorial restrictions and provisions on dealer termination. Analysis of the economic effects of these laws has led some to conclude that they harm consumers and should be eliminated.(5) The focus here is more narrow – state laws banning direct manufacturer sales, since they may be curtailing development of a more cost-effective method of auto distribution.(6)
 The next section offers a brief overview of the auto dealer franchise system. Then the essential features of the direct manufacturer distribution model are described and compared with the traditional method of selling autos. Discussion of the benefits of a direct distribution model to auto consumers and manufacturers follows, along with economic analysis of some of the concerns of dealers. A conclusion addresses the question of federal involvement in this issue.

via: Cameron Bales.

Testing UberX, Lyft and Sidecar Against a Cab in Six Cities

Geoffrey Fowler:

Sometimes, it’s OK to get in a stranger’s car.

Using apps, tens of thousands of people every day pay for rides in other people’s cars instead of taking cabs. Drivers from services called Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are taking part in one of the most unusual new kinds of businesses enabled by smartphones.

The first time I e-hailed a stranger for a ride in San Francisco a year and a half ago, it felt like the kind of thing I shouldn’t tell my mother. Who is this man with a Prius, I could hear her asking, and how do you know he isn’t a maniac? When I climbed in the car, he offered me a lollipop. Now I’m taking candy from strangers, too?

Let me explain, Mom: Riding with strangers, aka ride-sharing, has become a regular part of how I get around because it’s convenient and often cheaper than a cab.

There are still safety concerns regarding the drivers—not that they’re serial killers, but they might lack comprehensive insurance coverage. But you could argue that these services, which use smartphones and GPS data, are potentially even safer to use than regular cabs.

What’s certain is that all three services are spreading fast, available in many U.S. cities, from Chicago to Charlotte, N.C. UberX, the largest nonprofessional driver service run by Uber, is in 25 U.S. markets.

Like any form of transportation, you need to be smart about using these apps.

Attention all hipsters: Audi wants to sell you a car

Gabe Nelson:

I get the feeling that Audi really, really wants me at their party.
 As we reported today, Audi of America wants all of its roughly 280 U.S. dealerships to throw parties on the night of April 3 to celebrate the A3, the entry-level sedan that arrives in U.S. dealerships this month after years of preparations, and which Audi sees as a way to win the hearts of a new generation of luxury buyers.
 Audi has sent its dealers an elaborate, 64-page guide to planning the parties, which are meant for people between their mid-20s and early 40s. And the guide, obtained by Automotive News (click here to download the PDF), makes clear that Audi is targeting hipsters, those indie-music and craft-beer fans from Brooklyn, Austin and Portland.
 Audi’s guide never uses the word “hipster,” which carries a whole lot of baggage.
 And yet, contained in the guide’s 64 pages are so many hipster stereotypes — bacon doughnuts, unfiltered craft beer, up-and-coming bands like Chvrches — that it feels like something out of the TV show “Portlandia.”

Tesla Faces New Jersey Challenge as Rule Change Looms

Alan Ohnsman:

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the electric-car maker that doesn’t have franchised retail dealers, may be forced to close its stores in New Jersey if the state changes rules for selling autos, Diarmuid O’Connell, the company’s vice president of business development, said on a conference call.
 The automaker, based in Palo Alto, California, said it learned yesterday that the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is reviewing a change today to block manufacturers from being licensed to sell cars directly in the state. This comes the same day Tesla is to meet in Ohio with officials to find a compromise that would let it keep selling its luxury electric cars there.
 “Clearly, a decision was made rather abruptly and certainly without any consultation with us,” O’Connell said in the call on developments in New Jersey. “There are probably a couple levels of bad faith and surreptitious behavior.”

One year and 15,000 miles with a Tesla Model S

David Noland:

After almost four years of waiting, those first days after delivery were euphoric. As I recall, the words “greatest freaking car in the entire freaking Universe” (or thereabouts) passed my lips on several occasions during the honeymoon period.
 But my view has become, shall we say, more nuanced after 365 days and 15,243 miles of of blizzards, bird droppings, heat, cold, glitches, groceries, dogs, road trips, drag races, Superchargers, traffic jams, service visits, vampire draw, software updates, and “Check Tire Pressure Monitoring System” warnings.
 First, some numbers.
 “Fuel” efficiency and cost
 To cover 15,243 miles, I used 5,074 kWh of electricity, for an average of 333 watt-hours per mile. That’s a bit better than the car’s EPA-rated efficiency of 350 Wh/mi, and converts to precisely 3 miles per kWh.
 I used about 1,275 kWh of free Supercharger power on three long road trips totaling about 4,000 miles. So about 3,800 kWh of the 5,074-kWh total came through my electric meter.

Volkswagen: Big Data Doesn’t Have to Mean Big Brother

Ina Fried:

Given the vast amounts of data that will be collected by the cars of the future, strict protections are needed to prevent government intrusion, the chairman of Volkswagen Group said on Sunday.
 “The car must not become a data monster,” Martin Winterkorn said, at the start of the CeBit trade show in Germany. Car makers already protect drivers from hydroplaning, fatigue and traffic. They must also protect against government misuse of data, he said.
 “I clearly say yes to Big Data, yes to greater security and convenience, but no to paternalism and Big Brother,” Winterkorn said, according to an English translation of his prepared remarks. He called for a voluntary commitment from the car industry to protect customer data and said his company stands ready to join such an effort.
 The data protection concerns voiced by Winterkorn were echoed by government and industry speakers at the lavish opening ceremonies for CeBit, an event that also featured German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Why I Fear Apple CarPlay

Brian S Hall:

I fear a fundamental Apple strength could come back to harm us. To wit: The hallmark of Apple products is not that they are intuitive, rather that they are enticing. Watch an iPhone user. They can’t seem to stop themselves, ever, from checking, tweeting, texting, calling, looking, reading, listening, scanning, scrolling.
 Now put that into a car.
 Yes, I know CarPlay is by Apple and Apple has four decades of experience creating amazing hardware and intuitive operating systems. There are two obvious roadblocks:

Tesla gains new admirers as it heads towards the mass market

The Economist:

IF COMFORTABLY outpacing your rivals is the main measure of automotive achievement, Tesla’s electric car is a resounding success. The Model S last year outsold its nearest luxury rival, Mercedes’s petrol-engined S-class, by 30% in America. And in its top specification the Tesla will also beat the German car in the race from 0-60mph. As a battery-maker Tesla is also moving fast. This week it announced plans to build a “gigafactory” in America to make lithium-ion power-packs, that it hopes will propel its vehicles to the mainstream.
 Tesla’s acceleration has been rapid. Launched a decade ago by Elon Musk (pictured), a founder of PayPal and serial tech entrepreneur, last year it sold around 22,000 cars and by the end of 2014 hopes to be making 1,000 a week. In early 2015 Tesla will add the Model X, a medium-sized SUV, to its range. However, Tesla’s impressive growth has not yet translated into significant profits. A series of battery fires also briefly dented sales growth last year.

Volkswagen: Big Data Doesn’t Have to Mean Big Brother

Ina Fried:

Given the vast amounts of data that will be collected by the cars of the future, strict protections are needed to prevent government intrusion, the chairman of Volkswagen Group said on Sunday.
 “The car must not become a data monster,” Martin Winterkorn said, at the start of the CeBit trade show in Germany. Car makers already protect drivers from hydroplaning, fatigue and traffic. They must also protect against government misuse of data, he said.
 “I clearly say yes to Big Data, yes to greater security and convenience, but no to paternalism and Big Brother,” Winterkorn said, according to an English translation of his prepared remarks. He called for a voluntary commitment from the car industry to protect customer data and said his company stands ready to join such an effort.
 The data protection concerns voiced by Winterkorn were echoed by government and industry speakers at the lavish opening ceremonies for CeBit, an event that also featured German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I learn something new about this car from each of the customers who buys one.”

Jack Baruth:

It doesn’t really matter. Albert’s going to buy one even if he has to buy it at a big-box retail store. Which makes me wonder if perhaps it wouldn’t be a better idea to do just that. Forget the dealers. They don’t want it. Put it in Wal-Mart, back next to the lawnmowers and the Jeff Gordon steering-wheel covers. Knock two grand off the price and watch ‘em sell. In the modern era, these cars are purchased by people who know the full story on them before they ever leave their homes.

Apple’s Battle for the Connected Car

The Wall Street Journal (Video):

With Apple and Google stepping on the gas to integrate their smartphones with car communications systems, big car companies are insisting the dashboard screen belongs to them.

Auto industry ponders robot-car liability

Chris Bryant & Henry Foy:

Who is to blame if your self-driving car crashes? The automotive industry is trying to answer this somewhat futuristic question, according to the chief executive of parts supplier Continental.

However, Elmar Degenhart said the issue – a possible barrier to a future of robot cars – remains to be solved.

Autonomous vehicles are one of the car industry’s most competitive areas of innovation, with some estimates suggesting that the potential to cut road deaths and injuries could be worth more than $5tn in benefits.

But while carmakers and outside players such as Google race to fine-tune the technology, complex questions of liability are starting to confound executives over what happens if a driver takes their hands off the wheel and an accident occurs.

“Who is liable when during partly or fully-autonomous driving the responsibility for what the car does is transferred from the driver to the car. Who is liable for the vehicle: is it the manufacturer, a neutral institution, or . . . [the part] supplier?” Mr Degenhart asked.

Technology’s the Buzzword at the Geneva Auto Show

Bloomberg video.

Is this the CarPlay manufacturer coverage chart? Hint: not exactly


A table with Apple, GENIVI, Microsoft, and Google car support is being passed around as the CarPlay coverage chart. Why is it missing some car manufacturers with CarPlay support? I’ll answer that.
 Yesterday, Apple announced iPhone CarPlay and manufacturer support and CarPlay demo video. Some people are passing this low resolution chart as the latest development (originally 420 x 291 pixels, I’ve enhanced it the best I can here):
 The chart came from an article from The Guardian published January 6, 2014. The article discusses the new Google Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) introduced that day and compared it to existing players such as Apple, Microsoft, and GENIVI based on open sourced Meego OS which was developed and abandoned by Nokia.
 That chart is no longer accurate. There seems to be some changes in Apple car partnerships since then, and Microsoft lost a major partner. Just few weeks ago in February Ford announced dropping Microsoft support and moving to BlackBerry QNX for its new cars (probably due to the fiasco of Microsoft MyFord Touch).

Considering Carplay

Wes Miller:

Late last week, some buzz began building that Apple, alongside automaker partners, would formally reveal the first results of their “iOS in the Car” initiative. Much as rumors had suspected, the end result, now dubbed CarPlay, was demonstrated (or at least shown in a promo video) by initial partners Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. If you only have time to watch one of them, watch the video of the Ferrari. Though it is an ad-hoc demo, the Ferrari video isn’t painfully overproduced as the Mercedes-Benz video unfortunately is, and isn’t just a concept video as the Volvo is.

via Ben Thompson.

How To Tap Into Your Car’s Computer—And Why You Might Not Want To

Bradley Bermann:

Most people know that today’s cars and trucks utilize multiple onboard computer systems. But many drivers are less aware that all cars built after 1996 have a 16-pin data port under the steering column that accesses the vehicle’s computer network. Think of it as something like a hidden USB connection for cars.
 For decades, only auto service technicians had a way to plug into the so-called onboard diagnostics (OBD) port, so they could read and interpret the fault codes that trigger dashboard warning lights. (Ka-ching!)
 It was only a matter of time before enterprising technologists would figure out how to tap into the OBD port and beam the data via Bluetooth to smart phones carried by drivers. Shouldn’t you, as the owner of your car, have ownership of—and access to—the data stored onboard?
 The answer is a resounding “Yes,” for the creators of a wave of hardware-software car-based telematics aftermarket products—including Automatic, Mojio, Dash and Truvulo. The first of these products to hit the market is Automatic. I’ve had it running on our 2006 Toyota Prius for the past few weeks.

Cars of the future may be so intelligent, there may not be much future for driving

Anna Maria Tremonti:

Now, in 2014, we’re quite accustomed to having our car tell us where to go with GPS features. But are we ready for cars that speak to each other? The U.S. department of transportation thinks so. Earlier this month Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a proposal that would see all new cars equipped with Vehicle to Vehicle communication, or V-2-V by 2017… all in the name of making driving safer.
 Transport Canada says it is monitoring the developments in the United States with respect to vehicle-to- vehicle communication, and is in touch with US counterparts. It says it will review the findings of a US safety pilot and will consider, if appropriate, similar regulatory action in Canada.


Passengers’ view of driverless cars

Russell Hotten:

“I wanted to put the passenger at the centre of what is possible, not the autonomous driving technology,” says Rinspeed’s founder and chief executive Frank Rinderknecht.
 “Travelling in a driverless car will no longer require me to stare at the road, but will let me spend my time in a more meaningful way.
 “The question then arises, would I like to work, to sleep, to read, to do whatever activities you might do on a train, a plane?
 “I wanted to start thinking about how autonomous cars would ‘move’ people, and not just in the literal sense.”

Driver UX commentary

Gavin Green:

While Geneva, like most motor shows, is more about style than tech, there was of course a serious side to the Palexpo. The first tech highlight, for me, was the superb TFT dash of the new Audi TT. For the first time, all the display functions can be shown on the main facia, so that means no unsightly central screen, simplifying a very handsome cabin. It also means, when you do your Nürburgring laps, your main display can be a map of the ’Ring (your progress is tracked) and a stopwatch. Neat. More day-to-day convenient, your satnav display can also be on the main display (tacho and speedo shrink and jump to the bottom of the display). The handsome Lamborghini Huracan had the same set-up and, no doubt, a Golf will soon.

Toyota i-ROAD hits the roads of Japan

Joe Clifford:

The i-ROAD is an ultra-compact, three-wheeled electric vehicle concept designed to make short-distance travel in cities smoother and more enjoyable. Easy to handle, i-ROAD gives the driver the sensation of being at one with the machine as it speeds along narrow streets and leans intuitively through the corners as if you were riding a bicycle.
 More than just a mental exercise, i-ROAD is a key component in Toyota’s vision of a future urban traffic system that intelligently combines public transportation systems with EVs such as the i-ROAD in order to reach your destination. The overall purpose is to place minimum stress on both people and the environment, while alleviating traffic congestion and minimising the inefficient use of parking spaces.
 Towards the end of 2014, i-ROAD will also appear on the roads of Grenoble, France, as it participates in another next-generation urban traffic system supported by Toyota. It will be among 70 ultra-compact EVs included in a large-scale car-sharing project that aims to offer an environmental and people-friendly mobility solution.

Why Sweden has so few road deaths

The Economist:

LAST year 264 people died in road crashes in Sweden, a record low. Although the number of cars in circulation and the number of miles driven have both doubled since 1970, the number of road deaths has fallen by four-fifths during the same period. With only three of every 100,000 Swedes dying on the roads each year, compared with 5.5 per 100,000 across the European Union, 11.4 in America and 40 in the Dominican Republic, which has the world’s deadliest traffic, Sweden’s roads have become the world’s safest. Other places such as New York City are now trying to copy its success. How has Sweden done it?
 Since reaching a peak in road deaths in the 1970s, rich countries have become much better at reducing the number of traffic accidents. (Poor countries, by contrast, have seen an increasing death toll, as car sales have accelerated.) In 1997 the Swedish parliament wrote into law a “Vision Zero” plan, promising to eliminate road fatalities and injuries altogether. “We simply do not accept any deaths or injuries on our roads,” says Hans Berg of the national transport agency. Swedes believe—and are now proving—that they can have mobility and safety at the same time.
 Planning has played the biggest part in reducing accidents. Roads in Sweden are built with safety prioritised over speed or convenience. Low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bikes and oncoming traffic have helped. Building 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) of “2+1” roads—where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking—is reckoned to have saved around 145 lives over the first decade of Vision Zero. And 12,600 safer crossings, including pedestrian bridges and zebra-stripes flanked by flashing lights and protected with speed-bumps, are estimated to have halved the number of pedestrian deaths over the past five years. Strict policing has also helped: now less than 0.25% of drivers tested are over the alcohol limit. Road deaths of children under seven have plummeted—in 2012 only one was killed, compared with 58 in 1970.

Americans borrowing record amount to buy cars

Philip LeBeau:

A combination of higher prices for new cars and relatively low rates for auto loans means Americans are borrowing a record amount to pay for their new rides.
 According to Experian Automotive, which tracks millions of auto loans written each quarter, the average amount borrowed by car buyers last quarter climbed above $27,000 for the first time ever.
 “It’s not surprising buyers are borrowing more,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive credit. “If you look at the most popular segments, they are full-size pickups and SUVs. It’s hard to find one of those models new and fully loaded for under $30,000.”

Podcast with Gordon Murray discussing the iStream production system

iStream’s Gordon Murray “The good stuff starts at 27min. Talks for about 10 minutes on the subject.” Via a kind Oliver Bruce email.

Gordon Murray Design.

Ford Invites Open-Source Community to Tinker Away Ford engineer who built haptic shift knob speaks at EE Live!

Junko Yushida:

For a long time, many carmakers’ worst nightmare involved “alterations” to their vehicles — either by crooks with malicious intent, or by overly enthusiastic hobbyists whose handy work could result in unintended consequences.
 Researchers at Ford Motor Company, including Zachary Nelson, a recent MIT graduate and an engineer with Ford, however, are willingly turning that conventional fear among car OEMs upside down, by introducing the power of the open-source community to the automotive world.
 Nelson, who will be speaking at EELive! at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 3, will discuss how the Open XC open-source platform could allow people with smartphones to connect with real-time vehicle data.

Volvo, Mercedes and Ferrari demo Apple’s CarPlay in Geneva

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

In a press release and live demos with a trio of big-name automakers, Apple re-released and re-branded iOS in the Car, which it had announced only last June. The new name is CarPlay, a calculated marketing reference to AirPlay, Apple’s proprietary system for streaming video, audio, photos and Web content from Apple devices to TVs and stereos.
 Similarly, CarPlay will tap into a stack of Apple-owned technologies — Siri, iTunes, Maps — and its reputation for ease of use to differentiate Apple’s offering from its chief competitors: Google’s (GOOG) Open Automotive Alliance, introduced in January, Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Embedded Automotive, now in its 8th version, and the GENIVI Alliance, a nonprofit compliance program based on Linux.

Tesla Is a Car, Not a Revolution

Edward Niedermeyer:

From the very beginning, there have been signs that Elon Musk’s ambitions for Tesla Motors exceeded his grasp on reality — or at least the realities of the car business.
 Starting with his Moores Law-like product strategy (halving costs and doubling volume with each new car), and continuing through the Hyperloop and now the electric-battery “Gigafactory” proposal, Musk has dumbfounded the entire auto industry. Not because of the proposals themselves — most car industry executives expect overblown hype from Silicon Valley types. Rather, they are shocked that Wall Street is buying that hype and pouring money into Musk’s dream factory.
 Tesla’s market capitalization is hovering around $30 billion, about half that of General Motors and Ford. Tesla has sold a grand total of 25,000 Model S sedans around the world over three years. GM and Ford deliver upwards of 200,000 vehicles in the U.S. alone each month. When you extend the comparison to financial performance, with $2 billion in sales last year, Tesla’s relative market valuation appears even more overblown.

Tesla Makes the Most of Irrational Exuberance

Randall Forsyth:

Tesla is proving nearly as adept in financial engineering as it is producing brilliant electric-powered cars.

After its shares closed at another record Wednesday, Tesla Motors (ticker: TSLA) announced plans to issue $1.6 billion of new convertible senior notes, which will go toward financing its proposed “gigafactory,” a $5 billion facility to build lithium-ion batteries for its next generation of electric autos.

It is as if Tesla can do no wrong these days. Just a day after Consumer Reports named the Model S sedan the best overall auto for 2014, with a rating of 99 out of 100, its high-flying shares closed at $253, a new high and up an astonishing 68% just since the turn of the year. And even the prospect of a potentially dilutive convertible offering did nothing to deter the bulls, as the shares traded up another 3.4% after hours, to $261.60.

Clearly, this is a momentum stock that recalls the giddy dot-com era of the end of the past century, as do the likes of Netflix (NFLX), biotechs and social-media wunderkinder. Tesla, in particular, has made good use of its high-flying shares to fund its heady growth.