“taking photographs of traffic accidents for use in…”

Gurpreet Narwan

For more than 30 years Arnold Odermatt, now 89, worked in the Swiss police force, taking photographs of traffic accidents for use in incident reports. In the early 1990s, Odermatt’s son Urs, a film-maker, came across the photos and edited them into books and shows which have been exhibited all around the world.
The pictures capture the momentary serenity of an accident scene after the horror of the incident but before the rescue and recovery operation begins.

The image below, taken in Buochs, Switzerland, in 1995 belongs to the series Karambolage (see slideshow below), which is currently on show at the Galerie Springer in Berlin.

Daimler’s car sharing business car2go to quit UK, London a challenge


Daimler’s (DAIGn.DE) car2go business will withdraw from the United Kingdom at the end of May after the car-sharing business it runs with rental firm Europcar (IPO-EUROP.PA) failed to gain traction in London.
 “We’ve listened closely to customer feedback and taking the UK’s strong culture and tradition of private vehicle ownership into account, we have decided to withdraw from the UK market place,” the company said on its website.
 Car2go has been in London since December 2012 and launched in Birmingham in 2013.
 Car2go had hoped to establish a network of “free floating” parking spaces across London where customers could pick up and drop off cars. But coordinating 32 separate authorities across different boroughs proved to be more difficult than anticipated.

BMW’s quest to conquer the China market

CNBC Video:

CNBC’s Eunice Yoon speaks to Karsten Engel, President & CEO of BMW Group China, for more insight into the carmaker’s China strategy.

The Major Design Flaws in Google’s New Self-Driving Car

Cliff Kuang:

The first thing you notice about Google’s new self-driving car is how friendly it looks: Its face has ovoid eyes and baby-blue retinas, a shiny button nose, and a straight-line mouth–like a put-upon Pixar character who rallies to save the film’s hero. Awwwww!

This design strategy of cuddly familiarity was a concession to one glaring fact about driverless cars: To a public raised on taking the wheel, the very concept of ceding control is terrifying. So the industrial design itself had to be cuddly, approachable, and, in a word, nice. But by the same token, this isn’t enough of an aim for the product. People have to want it. Friendliness is just part of an equation that must include variables for the real experience of living with such a new piece of technology.

Related: 10 things you might not know about Google’s driverless car

Tech needs to decide which master it’s going to serve

Jason Lefkowitz:

Me, I’m less enthusiastic. The reason is simple: control. When I drive my car, I’m the one who decides where it goes, and how fast, and what route it takes to get there. In a self-driving car, someone else would be making those decisions for me.
 The pitch is that ceding this control makes the whole experience more convenient. Who wants to futz with wheels and pedals, Google asks. Wouldn’t it be easier to just sit down and be magically whisked to wherever you want to go? Wouldn’t that be neat?
 It actually probably would be neat, at least at first. But I can’t silence the nagging voice in my head that warns me about what would come next, if I give up my right to choose my own route. If Google’s the one planning the trip, how long until I find my trips start taking me consistently past businesses that advertise with Google? Maybe the car will even wave a digital coupon in my face as we approach them, to entice me to stop.
 Or take the thought a step further. What if, instead of taking me on a tour of nearby Google advertisers, the car starts plotting routes for me that take me away from businesses that don’t advertise with Google? What if it refuses to take me to one of those at all, or forces me to wade through a long confirmation process before it will deign to take me there? “I know you said McDonald’s, user, but our valued partner, Burger King, has a location nearby as well! Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer a hot and juicy Whopper™? Are you sure?”

The Google Car Takes a Step Away From Boring

John Markoff:

Not so boring?
 This month, I stirred up the blogosphere when I wrote that my brief ride in a Google self-driving Lexus with two other reporters was “boring.”
 There was a lot of breathless coverage of Google’s press event, which culminated with the company’s piling reporters three at a time into the back seat of a sensor-full autonomous vehicle for a five-mile jaunt through traffic in the Silicon Valley community where the company has its headquarters.
 To me, what was striking at the time — aside from being cramped in the back seat — was the seemingly routine nature of autonomous driving, based on Internet-connected navigation technology that Google has been working on for more than four years.

Big Data Talks

Peter DeLorenzo:

AE: Wow, that’s… impressive.

B.D.: Yeah, and let’s say a car company needs to get at the real buyers, not tire kickers, but the ones itching to buy. We can tell them what these people have been looking at and where, which Internet sites they frequent, what articles they’ve read, what they like to do in their spare time, what their interests are, and the same sort of stuff I just told you about Sandra. Then they take that info and tailor specific messages for them. Did you hear what Toyota is doing now?

AE: No, what?

B.D.: They’re using subscriber data from DirecTV to target tech-geeks in L.A., San Francisco and San Diego, enticing them to look at the all-electric, $50,000 RAV4. Toyota doesn’t have to screw around with mass-market messages at all, instead they can get right at these early adopters who subscribe to DirecTV and who would have a tendency to consider the car in the first place. And where did they get the tool that allows them to do all that?

AE: Big Data?

B.D.: Correctamundo. Listen, this has been fun, but when Lurlene comes through the door you best not be here.

Will Big Box Auto Retailers Survive?

Steven Lang:

Car dealerships.

Auto parts stores.

Repair shops.

Tire centers.

How many of these places will be needed 10 years from now?

Car dealerships have a triple whammy coming straight at their bottom line.

An adversary in the form of Tesla, who has the monetary means to fight a legal war with the strong support of the general public.

A move toward car-sharing services at all levels of society. Right now this is at its early stages. However, in the long run, these services will continue to drive down the value proposition of buying and maintaining a new car.

Finally, the times are a-changin’. It’s no secret that young consumers in particular would strongly prefer to buy a new vehicle online instead of going through the four-square game and the interminable waits at a new car dealership.

If an automaker can legally offer direct sales and convenient test drive facilities without the traditional hassles of buying a car, they would likely get a big chunk of this market. Tesla is now the sole pursuer of this sales channel. But, if they manage to break through the litigious minefield, a lot of overseas manufacturers may decide that direct sales to the American public offers a far better business model than the dealer as an intermediary. If that happens, you will start to see some of the smaller manufacturers band together and offer direct sales channels in parts of the country where a stand-alone dealership doesn’t make sense.

Related: Asymcar 13: Pilgrimages and Fundamental Evil.

Miles Driven Since 1970: USA

St Louis Fed:

Vehicle Miles Traveled and the 12-Month Moving Vehicle Miles Traveled series are created by appending the recent monthly figures from the FHA’s Traffic Volume Trends to their Historic Monthly Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) data

Why Buying A Car Is So Awful


In survey after survey, people rank buying a car as one of their least favorite experiences.
 Why hasn’t anyone figured out a better way to sell cars? Why can’t you just go to a car store and shop for cars from a bunch of different manufacturers? Why don’t cars have real price tags — with real prices, that people actually pay?
 Today on the show: Why car buying is so unpleasant, and what your local legislators may be doing to keep it that way.

via Steve Crandall.

The Internet of Things is gearing up – for cars….

Brian S Hall:

The Internet of Things (IoT) will connect your car to streaming media, family members, roads, toll booths, smog monitors, transit authorities, other vehicles and pretty much everything else that can be viewed through your windshield. What’s to be gained from all this connectivity? It should ease commute times, improve productivity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, keep the kiddies in the backseat happy and make many companies a great deal of money. But will it improve the driving experience? Almost certainly, yes.
 Cars can no longer be strictly defined as a mechanical device. They are, in fact, giant mobile computers—incorporating driver assistance software, infotainment systems, intelligent sensors and millions of lines of code. Soon, your connected car’s data will be streamed to the cloud, transmitted via telemetry to nearby cars and archived by road commissions. The revolution’s only just getting started. An improved driving experience should incorporate most if not all of the following enhancements:

US claims victory over China in WTO car dispute

James Politi and Shawn Donnan:

Washington claimed victory in a World Trade Organisation case challenging the decision by China to impose duties on about $5bn worth of annual sales of US cars – from the Jeep Grand Cherokee to the Cadillac Escalade.

The development comes amid rising bilateral trade tensions over allegations of Chinese hacking into US companies’ files and renewed friction on the strength of the renminbi.
Michael Froman, the US trade representative, was flanked by Debbie Stabenow and Sandy Levin, two senior Democratic members of Congress from Michigan with close ties to US carmakers, on Friday as he touted the win for the Obama administration.

Americans are leaving their biggest metros, but immigrants keep them growing

Richard Florida:

America’s largest metro areas, which are currently gaining population at impressive rates, are driving much of the population growth across the nation. But that growth is the result of two very different migrations–one coming from the location choices of Americans themselves, the other shaped by where new immigrants from outside the US are heading.
 Working closely with demographer and Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) colleague Karen King, I decided to take a closer look at newly released data from the US Census Bureau, which breaks out metro population growth according to its various components. We looked at domestic migration; international migration; and net migration for 2012 to 2013. MPI’s Zara Matheson mapped the patterns.
 While many metro areas are attracting a net-inflow of migrants from other parts of the country, in several of the largest metros–New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, especially–there is actually a net outflow of Americans to the rest of the country. Immigration is driving population growth in these places. Sunbelt metros like Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix, and knowledge hubs like Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC are gaining much more from domestic migration.

Cars as Collateral


According to a report, United States Attorney John W. Vaudreuil said a Madison man was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for heroin possession.
 Darrion Brown, 22, of Madison, was sentenced Thursday for an incident in November 2012 in which he took a drug user’s car as collateral and was taken into custody with multiple bags of heroin and a loaded gun.
 Vaudreuil’s office said Brown had taken a car from a drug customer as collateral for a drug debt. The wife of the drug customer called Brown and said she had his money if he would meet her at a nearby restaurant parking lot. She then called Madison police, who agreed to offer assistance in recovering the car.
 When Brown arrived with the car police officers approached him and he presented false identification. He attempted to run but was apprehended.

New Manhattan Doesn’t Need Gas Stations

John Herrman:

There are 39 gas stations left in Manhattan, down from 60 in 2004. Just 12 of these stations are below 96th Street. This is not because people aren’t driving, or because cars are becoming more efficient, or because the public transportation system has expanded. It is a small problem created by a much larger problem, which is itself a symptom of enormous problems:
 Thanks to skyrocketing real estate prices, Manhattan gas stations are worth much more than the money the owner can make selling gas. Last year, a Getty near the High Line sold for $23.5 million. A few months later, another station in the borough went for $25 million.

Via Steven Sinofsky.

California approves test of self-driving cars on public roads Regulations take effect mid-September; rules for the public may come this December.

Megan Geuss:

On Tuesday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officially approved rules to allow the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. The rules will take effect September 16, 2014.
 The move has been a long time coming, with the DMV promising back in December 2013 that it would post regulations for public use of self-driving cars and then holding a public hearing in January to address concerns about them. These new rules will set a statewide standard for all manufacturers. (Although Google has been running pilot programs in Mountain View and elsewhere, it’s not the only company pursuing an automated vehicle—Nvidia told Ars last week that Audi has plans to incorporate a “cruise control for stop-and-go traffic” feature in one of its cars come 2015.)
 Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS), told Ars that the new rules could change how manufacturers proceed with their testing. “The DMV has a really, really difficult task, and I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of their approach,” he said. “I would say that anyone who is reading these documents will have to read very closely.”
 According to the adopted regulatory text that the California DMV posted on Tuesday, a manufacturer which wants to test autonomous vehicles has to apply for a testing permit, certify its drivers to test the cars, and secure a $5 million insurance or safety bond. The testing permit must be renewed after one year or else it expires.

In for the Long Haul

Daniel Gross:

But it’s a much different calculus for industrial workhorses. Imagine you could somehow take a regular cargo van that guzzles gas and will be driven for 200,000 miles over its long lifetime—and then install equipment (a battery pack, an electric motor) that makes it run like a hybrid. If you could offer it at a reasonable upfront price, economically rational fleet managers would take a look, even if there was no subsidy or tax credit.
 That’s precisely what XL Hybrids, a startup in Brighton, Massachusetts, has done during the last several years. Some car owners pimp their rides by adding spoilers, rims, or sound systems. XL Hybrids asks its calculating customers to pimp theirs by adding inconspicuous fuel-saving systems that cost about $8,000. Coca-Cola has already bought 100.
 XL Hybrids was started in 2008 by clean-tech veterans who wanted to avoid having their businesses rise and fall with subsidies and tax credits, which have a way of coming and going. They thought a hybrid power train pitched at people who own gas-guzzling vehicles that rack up a lot of city driving miles might be a winning proposition, especially if they could show that the $8,000 investment would pay for itself in three years or less. Their targets: the delivery and utility fleets that rely on General Motors light-duty vans.

Gus Van Sant casts the BMW i8 in soft light

Noah Joseph:

BMW has spent the better part of a century building its reputation with fossil-burning transportation, but now it’s banking heavily on the success of its new i family of electric vehicles. In order to succeed, it will need to sell examples of the i3, but sell the idea with the i8. And in order to do so, it is going to need some out-of-the-box promotional thinking. And that’s just what it seems to have done with this latest campaign of television commercials.
 The series of three (or at least that’s how many have been released thus far) ads wax more poetic than most of the car ads we’ve seen. But while they might skimp on the technical details, they don’t skip over the talent. The videos are the work of Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant, the cinematic artist best known for films like Good Will Hunting, Milk and Finding Forrester.

Related: .

New Cars Are Becoming Mobile WiFi Hotspots

Neal Boudette:

Christine Bickley of Riverdale, New Jersey drives a 2014 Kia. She listens to music through an app and bluetooth connection within the car. Matt Rainey for The Wall Street Journal

The long-promised demolition of the barriers that separate drivers from the information and entertainment available through smartphone apps is finally shifting into high gear.

Driven by consumer gripes—and by visions of new streams of revenue—auto makers and major players in the smartphone and apps industry dug into their software and hardware to remove a variety of obstacles to smooth integration of vehicle displays and the output from apps.

Now, a wave of new models hitting showrooms have dashboard electronics designed to make it dramatically easier to access smartphone apps that could provide real-time traffic maps, parking access and weather reports on the road.

Clock ticking on Google’s driverless cars

Tim Bradshaw:

Google is “very actively” working on how to put its driverless cars to public use in the next three years, according to the founder of its experimental “X” lab, after the search company’s recent breakthroughs in autonomous navigation of city streets.

In 2012, Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, set a 2017 deadline for bringing its driverless cars to market. But after launching the initiative in 2009, it still does not have any commercial partnerships to show for the ambitious multimillion-dollar project.

At a demonstration of its self-driving car technology at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X, said there was a “big debate internally” over whether to partner with existing automotive companies or make its own cars.

“We are thinking very actively how this can transition into the physical world of physical people,” he said, adding that the effort was centred less on revenue than on “how to get normal people to use the technology”.

“I would not think about how they make money,” said Mr Thrun, who now works part time at Google X and also runs Udacity, an online learning company. “Much more important for us at Google is how can we make the world a better place.”

Unsold Cars

Vince Lewis:

It would be fair to say that it is becoming a mechanical epidemic of epic proportions. If anybody from outer space is reading this webpage, we here on Earth have too many cars, why not come and buy a few hundred thousand of them for your own planet! (sorry but this is all I can think of)
 Below is shown just a few of the 57,000 cars (and growing) that await delivery from their home in the Port of Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
 With Google Maps look South of Broening Hwy in Dundalk for the massive expanse of space where all these cars are parked up.

Modularer Baukasten

Dan Neil:

Those operating profits are due, in part, to VW’s sweeping Modularer Baukasten (“modular toolbox”) production strategy that, while dizzying in execution, is a fairly straightforward drive to increase design/engineering commonality among products in the Group’s eight brands, from Seat and VW to Porsche and Bentley.
 For example: Our test car for the week, the 2014 Audi SQ5 (mostly loaded, $64,195), comprises a set of parts conforming to VW’s “modular longitudinal matrix,” the hard points of which are common with Audi sedans, coupes and crossovers, as well as the new Porsche Macan. In fact, the SQ5 shares about a third of its parts with Porsche’s compact crossover.
 Honey, do I smell sausage? I love you!

Modularer Baukasten.

BMW’s Electric Brand Will Lower CO2, Cost A Lot, And Pay Off Big Long-Term

Neil Winton:

Germany’s BMW is turning a costly necessity to reduce fuel consumption into a profit generating virtue.
 The world’s biggest premium car maker is currently cranking up the publicity machine for the August launch of its i8 plug-in hybrid two-seater supercar. BMW recently parachuted some investment bank analysts from Europe into Los Angeles to drive the i8 and they’ve come away very impressed.
 The i8 is BMW’s second vehicle in its drive for electrification, for which it has set up a separate “i” brand. The i3, a small electric city car with the option of a small-gasoline powered range extender to shore up the unpredictable battery mileage, was launched in Europe late last year.
 IHS IHS +0.23% Automotive analyst Tim Urquhart, who wasn’t in Los Angeles, said what started out as a loss-leader for BMW to show it took upcoming government rules slashing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions seriously, is turning into an exercise of effective brand building.

The i3 long bet.

“75% of customers don’t renew connected car contrac”ts

Morgan Mullooly.

Finally, an E-Bike That Actually Looks as Good as It Rides

Rene Chun:

E-bikes get a bad rap, and deservedly so. Early models were ugly, heavy, repair-prone, and expensive. In fact, calling them bikes at all can be stretch–some throttle-controlled models, like the 50 mph Stealth Bomber, are more like souped up scooters.
 Leave it to the Netherlands, the most bike-centric country in the world, to bring some sanity and design chops to the category. The new Vanmoof 10 Electrified is everything an e-bike should be. It’s light (42 pounds), reasonably priced ($2,998, compared to the $11,000 Stealth Bomber), and dependable (just plug and play).

Talking About a (Radio) Revolution & self driving cars

The Typist:

And if you care to notice, all three ventures by these mainstream alumni follow the model I talk about in my piece about the future of journalism: Dedicated crowd; expertise; small team. I mention this because I see the same happening to radio once consumers are no longer confined to a spectrum. When the medium gets (merely) as personal as the web is today, knwoledgeables1 are going to capture their respective dedicated crowds.
 My media colleagues seem to believe that broadcast radio as we know it today is safe at least until driverless cars become a reality. Maybe they’re right. I believe other changes will profoundly affect vehicle audio (and subsequently the radio industry) much sooner than they anticipate.

The Robot Car of Tomorrow May Just Be Programmed to Hit You

Patrick Lin:

Suppose that an autonomous car is faced with a terrible decision to crash into one of two objects. It could swerve to the left and hit a Volvo sport utility vehicle (SUV), or it could swerve to the right and hit a Mini Cooper. If you were programming the car to minimize harm to others–a sensible goal–which way would you instruct it go in this scenario?
 As a matter of physics, you should choose a collision with a heavier vehicle that can better absorb the impact of a crash, which means programming the car to crash into the Volvo. Further, it makes sense to choose a collision with a vehicle that’s known for passenger safety, which again means crashing into the Volvo.
 But physics isn’t the only thing that matters here. Programming a car to collide with any particular kind of object over another seems an awful lot like a targeting algorithm, similar to those for military weapons systems. And this takes the robot-car industry down legally and morally dangerous paths.
 Even if the harm is unintended, some crash-optimization algorithms for robot cars would seem to require the deliberate and systematic discrimination of, say, large vehicles to collide into. The owners or operators of these targeted vehicles would bear this burden through no fault of their own, other than that they care about safety or need an SUV to transport a large family. Does that sound fair?

Tesla’s Next Move: It built the world’s greatest electric car. Now comes the hard part.

Will Oremus:

It’s a Thursday afternoon at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, and the robots are humming. Humans in T-shirts and San Francisco Giants caps trade jokes as they help a massive robotic arm guide a touchscreen dashboard assembly past the B-pillar of a partially built Model S. Farther down the assembly line, finished cars rest in sleek rows according to their export destinations: Frankfurt, Oslo, Hong Kong.

Heading into its second decade as a company, Tesla might look like it’s on cruise control. After proving electric-car doubters wrong in 2008 by building a screaming-fast sports car, the Roadster, it proved them even wronger in 2012 by building the wildly popular—and surprisingly practical—Model S sedan. A hit with critics and rich techies alike, the Model S has rapidly become one of the world’s most coveted—and, in some markets, best-selling—luxury cars. Demand is building in Europe and Asia. A second high-end model, the Model X SUV, will hit the market next year.

If Tesla’s goal were simply to become a world-beating luxury automaker, crafting pricey toys for the environmentally conscious elite, it would already have succeeded. But Elon Musk’s aim all along has been to build an electric car for the masses. Specifically, the company’s plan is a $35,000 “third-generation” electric sedan with competitive performance and a 200-mile-plus range—all by the year 2017. (This third-generation sedan has been popularly dubbed Model E, though that’s unlikely to end up as its real name.) By 2020, Tesla hopes to be shipping 500,000 cars a year. That’s more than 10 times its current output. And it will probably have to do it without the federal subsidies that have helped make its cars more affordable so far.

The Oatmeal Reviews The Tesla Model S

The Oatmeal, via Stefan Constantine

APEC boosting electric vehicle development


Increasing demand for fuel-efficient, greenhouse-gas reducing vehicles is prompting APEC economies, the world’s largest producers and consumers of automobiles, to adopt international standards to support the production and use electric vehicles and avoid regulatory divergences in the Asia-Pacific region.

Trade officials, standards experts, manufacturers and power grid representatives, convened at an electric vehicle standards capacity building workshop in Qingdao, agreed that electric vehicles are the way of the future for the automobile industry. But they noted that economies should work to align and harmonize regulations and international standards for the market to become mainstream.

This is in line with APEC economies’ priority to strengthen comprehensive connectivity and innovative development, economic reform and growth, which is being taken forward by APEC Senior Officials through Thursday in Qingdao.

“The introduction of electric vehicles into regional and global transportation networks presents a unique set of safety, design and performance requirements not previously addressed in an internal combustion vehicle world,” said John Larkin, Chair of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment.”

US Auto Finance: Looking beyond buyers’ credit scores

Vince Bond, Jr.:

It’s a finance and insurance manager’s biggest challenge: a customer who’s ready to buy but has no credit score.
 Not a bad score. None.
 In the past, there was very little that could be done if a shopper had no credit score, due to, say, a personal bankruptcy filing that erased his or her credit history.
 Today, though, lenders can tap a new array of technology, relying on nontraditional credit data for insight into a consumer’s debt-management history. That can overcome a missing credit score and other problems.
 Those tools mean lenders can be far more confident about the quality of their loans, even as the portion of automotive lending that goes to subprime borrowers continues to rise. Today’s lenders know more about the details of those borrowers than they did even two years ago.
 And when lenders are confident, more vehicles get sold.
 Peter Turek, TransUnion’s vice president of automotive, says nontraditional data help “expand the universe of potential borrowers for lenders.” TransUnion can provide a clearer picture of a person’s credit history by using cell phone, cable and utility records.

Audi ‘lied’ about safety testing

Alex Dackevych:

A BBC Watchdog investigation into Audi has discovered widespread lying about the safety testing of their vehicles.
 Undercover researchers witnessed nine out of 10 dealers from around the country falsely claim the Audi A5 was Euro NCAP safety tested.
 But the A5 – as well as the A7, A8 and R8 – are not tested. Audi’s UK head office falsely claimed that the entire Audi range was Euro NCAP safety tested.
 Audi UK said there had not been any deliberate intent to mislead.
 Six of the dealers claimed the Audi A5 had achieved the maximum five stars.
 The Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) safety tests are funded by various European governments and motoring bodies. Their ratings are frequently cited by manufacturers as a gold standard of safety.

Via TabDump.

Seeing Future in Fuel Cells, Toyota Ends Tesla Deal

Hiroko Tabuchi:

Toyota said on Monday that it would allow a battery-supply deal with Tesla Motors to expire this year and would focus instead on building cars running on hydrogen fuel cells, a next-generation technology that rivals Tesla’s all-electric systems.
 Toyota Motor invested $50 million in Tesla to acquire a 3 percent stake in the Silicon Valley upstart in 2010, and signed a $100 million joint-development deal in 2011 for a version of Toyota’s RAV4 crossover sport utility vehicle that carried Tesla’s electric powertrains. At the time, the two automakers suggested that the RAV4 electric vehicle could be the start of a wider collaboration.
 But the electric RAV4 has sold poorly, despite low-cost lease and loan offers Toyota introduced last year to promote sales. And Toyota has increasingly signaled that it sees fuel cells as the most viable zero-emissions technology, putting it at odds with Tesla, an evangelist for electric-vehicle technology. Toyota is also the world’s biggest manufacturer of gas-electric hybrids.
 Toyota said in an emailed statement that it was “re-evaluating” its RAV4 electric vehicle, and that Tesla’s supply agreement for the model would “conclude this year.” Toyota said that its contract had called for Tesla to supply 2,500 battery-electric powertrains for the RAV4.

A Trip in a Self-Driving Car Now Seems Routine

John Markoff:

 That’s the best way to sum up my second ride in a Google self-driving car, on Tuesday.
 My first ride, now almost four years ago, included merging onto a freeway and navigating a sweeping flyover curve with all the dexterity of a human driver. This time our route was even more mundane, basically an uneventful tour through the city streets of a Silicon Valley community.
 Since it created the project in 2009, Google has upgraded its fleet of cars from Priuses to Lexus S.U.V.s, and the navigational hardware, positioned in the vehicle trunk, is now more compact. Also, when the driver switches into autopilot, it no longer makes a neat, swooshing Star Trek sound effect. Rather, an anodyne female voice informs passengers that the car is now driving.
 During the half-hour demonstration, part of a Google press briefing, the one noticeable behavioral quirk that the Lexus exhibited was that it seemed to change lanes with emphasis. There was no gradually meandering from one lane to the next as a human driver might. The Google Lexus was all business.

Oshkosh works to develop driverless trucks for the US Marine Corps

Rick Barrett:

The Pentagon’s goal of having thousands of driverless military vehicles for use in combat zones and supply missions is closer to becoming reality as Oshkosh Corp. and others develop the technology aimed at keeping troops out of harm’s way.
 This week, Oshkosh is displaying some of its autonomous vehicle technology — such as sensors and computer systems that can control driverless trucks — at a trade show in Orlando, Fla., sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
 The truck manufacturer is working with the U.S. Office of Naval Research to produce an unmanned vehicle that would be used by the Marines Corps in supply-line convoys, including trips into combat zones.
 Ground-penetrating radar and other mine detection systems are being incorporated into the vehicle to counter the threat of roadside bombs that have killed many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 The Pentagon wants the unmanned vehicles, often at the front of a convoy, to detect — or absorb the damage from — improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, saving the lives of troops in vehicles that follow. That kind of capability is more important than just having a driverless truck that can cover long distances and never gets tired.
 Packed with radar, lasers and cameras that feed information to computers equipped with navigational software, the vehicles must make quick decisions in moving traffic, discerning what’s an obstacle in the road and what’s something a truck can easily pass over.

Please Silicon Valley. Do Not Turn The Car Into Another Boring Box

Brian S Hall:

A revolution is taking place within the automotive industry. It began not in Detroit, Germany or Tokyo, but as with all revolutions, from the outside. In this case, Silicon Valley. The spread of computing, connectivity and the cloud has at last reached our cars. Driving — and automobiles — will never be the same.
 Per the glorious visions of venture capitalists, the new market dreams of old world automakers and the ceaseless, prosaic functions of the Internet of Things, this is our car’s very-near future: Sensors under the hood, inside the dash, within the tires, sensors embedded in the roads and placed above traffic lights, all pumping out streams of data in real time, sent via telemetry to nearby vehicles, transmitted to the web for processing and analysis, shared with the crowd, then acted upon by the many computer chips within our own increasingly self-aware vehicle, all part of a highly monetizable big data ecosystem.

Sweden’s roads have 1/3 death rate of US because of smarter planning and priortizing saving lives over speed or convenience

Next Big Future:

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.

Via Steve Crandall

Mercedes B-Class Hits the A-List of Electric Cars

Dan Neil:

The B-ED is, realists would note, a “compliance car.” The phrase refers to a low- or zero-emission vehicle model, built in whatever numbers necessary to satisfy some portion of California’s clean-vehicle quota and typically sold only in California and 10 other clean-air states. The California Air Resources Board obliges major manufacturers to sell an incrementally rising percentage of advanced technology ZEV cars even if, and most assuredly when, they lose money on them.
 Compliance cars put something of a strain on auto makers’ communications departments, because the unspoken truth is so, um, unspeakable. So let’s divide the B-ED’s media debut last week in Silicon Valley into text and subtext. The subtext was regulatory compliance, and of a very expedient variety, too: Rather than rely on in-house R&D, Mercedes essentially contracted with Tesla—the Silicon Valley car maker and acknowledged leader in electric automobiles—to provide the EV architecture (motor, transmission, battery, power electronics) for its electron-fired B-Class.
 The B-Class ED is the product of a technology-sharing alliance between Tesla and Daimler that goes back to Mercedes’ 2009 investment. Tesla will make the B-Class battery pack, power management system and thrashy bits at the factory in Fremont, Calif., and ship them to Germany for final vehicle assembly.

Via Steven Sinofsky.

$6,800 Elio Motors Vehicle Takes Step Closer to Reality

Anita Lienert:

The $6,800 Elio Motors three-wheeled vehicle took a step closer to reality on Thursday with word that the start-up company has agreed to buy a former General Motors assembly plant near Shreveport, Louisiana to build the vehicle.
 Elio Motors said it expects to begin commercial vehicle production in mid-2014 “with significant hiring at the Shreveport facility to begin by the second quarter of 2014.”
 Elio Motors said its quirky-looking car will achieve a highway mileage rating of more than 80 mpg.

BMW to Expand US Carbon Fiber Facility (runs on hydropower)

Jack Ewing:

Washington State that makes carbon fibers as the company moves to use more of the lightweight material in cars and meet demand for a new electric vehicle.

The German carmaker operates the factory in Moses Lake in a joint venture with the SGL Group, another German company, which will share in the investment. BMW said it would hire 120 new workers as part of the expansion, which is to be completed early next year and bring the total number of employees to about 200.

The move reflects the effort of BMW and other automakers to make cars lighter and more fuel-efficient, as well as increased interest by German companies in manufacturing in the United States, partly because of lower energy costs.

Related: The i3 Long Bet.

BMW invests in carbon fiber for use beyond i and M models.

For Tesla, another year ahead of ramping up Model S production

Katie Fahrenbacher:

While Tesla needs to look to the future to its next car the Model X, and its plans for a massive battery factory, the electric car company is still solidly concentrating on ramping up manufacturing of its current Model S electric car over the course of this year. In an earnings statement released on Wednesday Tesla said that it made 7,535 Model S cars — a record — for the first quarter of 2014, and plans to make between 8,500 and 9,000 Model S cars in the following quarter.
 In total Tesla wants to deliver 35,000 Model S cars in 2014, with an eventual production rate of 1,000 vehicles per week (it’s currently at 700 per week). While the ramp up in manufacturing might sound like a relatively minor move, the amount of lithium ion battery cells available to Tesla is actually one of the more substantial dampeners on that growth. Tesla says in its shareholder letter that “battery cell supply will constrain development in Q2 but improve in Q3.”

Via Paul Brody.

Fashion: BMW’s designed an eco-friendly carport for its electric vehicles

Daniel Cooper:

BMW’s first electric vehicles are rolling out in the US, but do you really want to store your prized ride in a crusty old garage? The company’s DesignWorks studio doesn’t think so, which is why it’s cooked-up this solar carport that could power your vehicle between trips around town. The concept structure itself boasts some serious eco-credentials, with struts made out of bamboo and transparent solar panels that promise to last up to 30 years. If you’re in a sufficiently sunny area, you could also use any spare energy generated by the carport to reduce your domestic electricity bill. Given that this is just a concept project, we won’t see BMW getting into the building trade any time soon — but that won’t stop us asking our contractor to cheekily produce something similar in the front yard.

Computer says no – why brands might end up marketing to algorithms

Toby Gunton:

Great swathes of brand relationships could become automated. Your energy bills and contracts, water, gas, car insurance, home insurance, bank, pension, life assurance, supermarket, home maintenance, transport solutions, IT and entertainment packages; all of these relationships could be managed by your beautiful personal OS.
 Brands in these categories could find themselves dealing with the digital butler (unless we, the consumer, step in and press the override button), in which case marketing in these sectors could become programmatic in the truest sense.

Panasonic Has 39% Share of Plug-In Vehicle Batteries, Thanks to Its Deal With Tesla

lux research:

Batteries for hybrids and plug-in vehicles are growing fast, more than tripling over the past three years to reach 1.4 GWh per quarter, according to the Automotive Battery Tracker from Lux Research. Panasonic has emerged as the leader thanks to its partnership with Tesla, capturing 39% of the plug-in vehicle battery market, overtaking NEC (27% market share) and LG Chem (9%) in 2013.
 “Even at relatively low volumes — less than 1% of all cars sold — plug-in vehicles are driving remarkable energy storage revenues for a few developers, like Panasonic and NEC, that struck the right automotive partnerships,” said Cosmin Laslau, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the new Lux Research Automotive Battery Tracker.
 “To understand this opportunity, we combined a comprehensive data set of vehicle sales with detailed battery specifications for each car and supplier relationships, yielding a flexible tool that uncovers unexpected insights into this fast-changing market,” he added.
 Lux Research analysts used historical and current vehicle sales, detailed battery specifications for each car, and supplier relationships to create the Automotive Battery Tracker. Among their findings:

Via Steve Crandall.

The Future Of Transportation Used To Look So Much More Sensational

Vincze Miklós:

Nobody thinks about future methods of transportation or commuting and thinks “Wow, that’s going to be incredible” any more. But for 100 years, from the Radium Age to the Space Age, people’s imaginations were on fire. Commuter rockets! Super-fast trains! UFO buses. Check out the most beguiling illustrations below.
 A futuristic view of air travel over Paris as people leave the Opera in the Year 2000, an illustration by Albert Robida, 1882.

Via Steve Crandall.

‘Smart Bike’ Gives Directions, Tracks Rides

Sean McCoy:

Do you really need turn signals in your handlebars to navigate a city landscape? Well, if the initial popularity of this “smart” bike is any indication, there are a lot of directionally challenged cyclists in the world.

The Valour model bike by Toronto-based Vanhawks raised more than $200,000 in just a few days on Kickstarter, doubling the fund-raising goal of $100,000 with 25 days remaining in the campaign.

Via Paul Brody.

Volvo’s first self-driving cars now being tested live on public roads in Swedish city


Volvo Car Group’s “Drive Me” project — featuring 100 self-driving Volvos on public roads in everyday driving conditions — is moving forward rapidly, with the first test cars now driving around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
 “The test cars are now able to handle lane following, speed adaption, and merging traffic all by themselves,” says Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Group.
 “This is an important step towards our aim that the final ‘Drive Me’ cars will be able to drive the whole test route in highly autonomous mode. The technology, which will be called Autopilot, enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle, which takes care of all driving functions.”

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.

BMW C Electric Scooter Faces its Biggest Test: the Public


Series production of BMW’s battery-electric BMW C evolution maxi-scooter has now begun at the company’s Berlin plant. The electric scooter — which is BMW’s first to be mass produced — began development back in 2011, as the BMW E-Scooter concept.
 The storage modules used in the BMW C Evolution are, interestingly, the same as those used in the i3 — as such, these will be supplied by BMW’s plant in Dingolfing.
 Speaking about the beginning of series production, Plant Manager Dr Marc Sielemann stated: “We are very proud to herald the launch of electric vehicles in the two-wheeler segment, the BMW Group here in Berlin. We anchor the topic of electric mobility production in Berlin BMW plant. In addition, the BMW C evolution fits perfectly into the activities of the showcase region for electric mobility Berlin-Brandenburg.”

Via Steve Crandall.

On 3D Printed Car Aesthetics

Gregory Han:

The days of the iconic car assembly line seems to be numbered. 3D printing technology will one day scale up for mass production of full-size automotive components and body panels using molten polymers, allowing manufacturers to build cars to microscopic exacting standards without the space currently required for assembly line manufacturing. The transition should result in lighter, better built, easier to construct, and more affordable vehicles. Cars will also probably look nothing like the vehicles on the road today once 3D printing becomes the standard.

Via Paul Brody.

The Case for Lit Motors

Oliver Bruce:

I was listening to the latest Asymcar podcast with Horace Dediu, Jim Zellmer and Steve Crandell. They were discussing how the US auto regulatory environment discourages innovation due to lots of safety requirements. “Unless,” Steve said, “there is something in transportation that is not quite in that area…a bicycle plus plus” that can compete asymmetrically with the car. Perhaps they were talking about something from Lit Motors…
 “The romance of a motorcycle married with the comfort and convenience of a car” – Danny Kim, founder of Lit Motors.
 Or, how about:

Nokia launches $100m smart car fund


Nokia has launched a $100m (£59m) fund which will invest in firms specialising in connected and smart vehicles.
 It is seen as a key growth area and Nokia has established its presence in the sector with its mapping service Here for connected vehicles.
 The move comes just days after Nokia completed the sale of its handset unit to Microsoft.
 The Finnish firm has said that mapping services is one of the three key businesses that it plans to focus on.

Via Steve Crandall.

£500 million to get more drivers into ultra low emission vehicles


The government will invest £500 million to boost the ultra low emission vehicle industry and help drivers both afford and feel confident using electric cars, the Deputy Prime Minister announced today.
 The automotive sector is a success story of the UK’s economic recovery, with a new vehicle rolling off a UK production line every 20 seconds and the industry is worth £11.2 billion to the economy. The production of ultra low emissions vehicles (ULEV) is a major part of growth both now and for the future.
 The investment of £500 million between 2015 and 2020 will create jobs, reduce emissions and set the agenda for the industry, for our towns and cities, and for motorists, so that Britain remains at the forefront of green technology.