Tesla plans China expansion

Richard Waters:

The Tesla CEO brushed off suggestions that the Chinese authorities might hamper Tesla’s expansion in order to support domestic carmakers. “They might have done some parochial actions in the past but I don’t think that’s going to be the path going forward for them,” he said.
 In one potential hindrance, Tesla has to meet different charging standards in China.
 Details of the standard were only announced a month ago but Tesla is “committed to meeting them”, he said. “It’s a little tricky to adhere to anything that hasn’t been definitely announced.”
 The global expansion has threatened to stretch Tesla’s ability to service the growing fleet of electric vehicles and maintain its strong brand image. Mr Musk said that Tesla believed it could continue to rapidly expand international sales without facing a crippling increase in costs.
 “Our ambition is quality that is an order of magnitude better than any other car,” he said.
 In the latest quarter, Tesla also registered progress in its efforts to squeeze greater efficiencies out of its supply chain. Its gross profit margin rose by 1.4 percentage points to 26.8 per cent on a pro forma basis, ahead of expectations of 26 per cent.
 Tesla said it had delivered 7,579 vehicles in the second quarter, slight more than the 7,500 it had forecast. It produced 8,763, also in line with expectations, reflecting the build up of vehicles in the distribution pipeline as it expands sales in Asia and Europe.

Insurers worry driverless cars are ‘existential threat’

Alistair Gray, Claer Barrett and Murad Ahmed:

Motor insurers will need to overhaul their business models to remain relevant in the coming decades, executives and consultants said on Wednesday, after driverless cars were given the green light to drive on British roads from January.
 Vince Cable, business secretary, launched a £10m competition for up to three cities to bid as locations for trials and announced a review of road regulations.
 The trials are expected to start in January 2015 and last between 18 and 36 months.
 Britain is not the first country to allow driverless cars. Several US states including California already permit them. David Raistrick, an automotive specialist from Deloitte UK, said regional cities such as Birmingham, Leeds or Milton Keynes would be ideal UK test locations.
 He added, “We will not see a sudden glut of driverless cars on the roads . . . Putting a car on the road is the easy part – getting the technology at the right price so people can afford to buy one will be more difficult.”
 However, some in the motor insurance industry, which writes £16bn of premiums a year, went as far as to argue the technology poses an existential threat to traditional car insurers because of expected improvements in road safety.

UK to allow driverless cars on public roads in January

Jon Ironmonger:

The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year.
 It also invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of the tech, which would start at the same time.
 In addition, ministers ordered a review of the UK’s road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines.
 The Department for Transport had originally pledged to let self-driving cars be trialled on public roads by the end of 2013.
 Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed the details of the new plan at a research facility belonging to Mira, an automotive engineering firm based in the Midlands.
 “Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society,” he said.
 UK engineers, including a group at the University of Oxford, have been experimenting with driverless cars. But, concerns about legal and insurance issues have so far restricted the machines to private roads.

Via Stefan Constantine.

Revealed: Government sell motorists’ details to private car park bosses chasing fines.. and it costs taxpayers £1million

Lynn McPherson:

THE Government are blowing almost £1million a year of taxpayers’ money handing over drivers’ personal data to controversial private parking firms.
 The DVLA last year processed about 2.6million requests from the firms – generating income of £6.7million.
 But we can reveal it cost the agency £7.6million to provide the information… and the taxpayer footed the £900,000 shortfall.

Chinese Low Speed EV’s

Charlie Pagree:

China is the largest market for electric vehicles in the world. Not highway-speed passenger electric automobiles but low-speed electric vehicles, which in China do not qualify as automobiles.
 There are literally hundreds of low-speed electric vehicle manufacturers in China and they manufactured over 200,000 four-wheel low-speed EVs in 2013. This low-speed electric vehicle revolution has put over half a million EVs on the roads in China while nobody was looking. Even in China, most people don’t realize how invasive these vehicles have become or how powerful the low-speed EV industry in China has become.
 Low-speed EVs in China combine automobile design practices from the 1930s with modern manufacturing processes to produce the cheapest electric vehicles in the world.
 The cheapest low-speed EVs sell for $2,000 while a top-of-the-line vehicle can sell for $12,000. Luxury models include power steering, power brakes, heating and air conditioning. Keep in mind that a cheap new gasoline automobile sells for only $5,000 in China. Low-speed EVs in China are usually based on a welded steel frame with a stamped steel body on top. These vehicles combine automobile design practices from the 1930’s with modern manufacturing processes to produce the cheapest electric vehicles in the world. Bodies are stamped using low-cost, low-volume stamping dies and then cut using three-dimensional laser cutting robots.

Via Steve Crandall.

Can the world’s most promising electric-car battery be saved?

Steven Levine:

HALIFAX, Canada—Over the last half-dozen years, a swarm of companies from around the world including General Motors has snapped up licenses for a lithium-ion electrode that promised to deliver the next big step in making electric cars competitive with conventional vehicles. The companies and outside researchers have worked feverishly to optimize the electrode, including an assault on a flaw that gravely undermined its performance.
 But in recent weeks, researchers working on the problem have gone public with a conclusion that the electrode, invented contemporaneously here at Dalhousie University and at Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago, won’t realize the hopes to bring alive a mass-market electric-car age. They say the problem is at the heart of the physics of the electrode, an amalgam of nickel, cobalt and manganese (NMC) that achieves remarkable capacity after a jolt of unusually high voltage, and does not seem fixable.

Via Paul Brody.

Affordable batteries for green energy are closer than we think

Valentin Muenzel & Iven Mareels & Julian de Hoog

At the heart of the current debate around energy is the question of storage. In cars, how to build batteries that run for hundreds of kilometres; in electricity, storing energy from solar panels for when the sun doesn’t shine.

Our analysis shows that the past very high storage costs are now rapidly falling. This suggests that the financial appeal of electric cars and stationary storage is set to keep increasing considerably in years ahead.

First introduced by Sony in 1990, lithium-ion batteries are already the dominant type of battery for technologies such as mobile phones, laptops and electric cars, and are expected to remain so for some time. Their strength lies in being able to store a high amount of energy in a relatively small and lightweight package, as well as being capable of charging and discharging thousands of times while retaining most of their storage capacity.

Via Matt Grantham!

Lithium: A metal that floats on oil and powers our phones

Laurence Knight:

Lithium, a key ingredient in lightweight batteries, is already powering the modern world, and could be key to getting the world to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
 Look at a satellite image of South America. Halfway down on the left-hand-side is a distinctive white splodge.
 Close up, that splodge turns out to be one of the most extraordinary and unspoilt places on earth, the world’s biggest salt flat.
 It is a crisp, perfectly flat white plain, like freshly fallen snow, 100km (60 miles) across and 3,600m (12,000ft) up in the remote Bolivian Andes.
 This is the Salar de Uyuni and this hauntingly beautiful place could be part of the key to tackling climate change, helping to wean the world away from fossil fuels.
 Which is why, pristine as it may be, the chances are that 50 years from now it will all be gone – dredged, crystallised and then carted away.
 That’s because under its thick salt crust, the Salar de Uyuni is also the world’s biggest single deposit of lithium, accounting for perhaps a third of the world’s resources of this alkaline metal.

Via Nalini Kumar Muppala.

Milwaukee clears way for rideshare companies.

Mike Ivey:

The Milwaukee City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed an ordinance that lifts a cap on taxicab permits, effectively opening the door for an unlimited number of drivers. For years it had been capped at 320 permits before the council in November added 100 more.
 All drivers would be required to pay an annual fee of $250 and adhere to the same licensing rules and background investigations.
 The ordinance would take effect Sept. 1, assuming Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signs it. Barrett has urged the council to find a way to allow Uber and Lyft to operate legally.
 Existing cab companies in Milwaukee have opposed the ordinance changes and are expected to mount a court challenge.

We meet Toyota’s ‘Mr Hydrogen’

Toyota Blog:

Katsuhiko Hirose is a man who has spent much of his working life looking into the future. He originally trained as a physicist, spending a year in the UK as a student and was involved in researching Nuclear Fusion. “The problem with that,” says Hirose “is that it was all too far into the future.”
 After that, he worked for Toyota on advanced engine research and had a spell liaising with the European Union on energy issues. He returned to Toyota, working on the development of the Prius hybrid, firstly on economy and emissions and then on the building and global distribution of what has become the world’s most successful hybrid car. Hirose points at his lapel badge and suggests proudly, but with underlying Japanese modesty, that he is known at Toyota as ‘Mr Hybrid Synergy Drive’.
 Today, the description of his job on his Toyota business runs to six lines, but it is probably easiest to call him Mr Hydrogen – Hirose is in charge of Toyota’s advanced research into hydrogen-powered cars. Hydrogen-powered cars have been under development by Toyota for at least two decades. The first concept version was based on a RAV4 and unveiled in 1997.
 In simple terms, Hydrogen power cars are propelled by electric motors. The electricity is generated inside the car by pushing Hydrogen gas through what’s called a fuel cell. The fuel cell splits the hydrogen into electricity and water: the electricity powers the motors and the only waste product from the exhaust pipe is the water.
 It sounds like an ideal, environmentally-friendly, alternative to fossil fuels. Hirose shows us Toyota research which suggests Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles have an efficiency of 36 percent, compared to 24 percent for battery-powered vehicles and 28 percent for vehicles powered by compressed natural gas.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive gets official US launch

Danny King:

It’s finally time to plug in the first production Mercedes-Benz-branded electric vehicle in the US. The Daimler division, which also sells a few of its battery-electric Smart ForTwo vehicles here in the states, has officially launched sales of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED. Even better, the US will be the first market in the world to give the general public access to the new plug-in.
 As with many other EV debuts, the flyover states will have to wait a bit. Mercedes-Benz is only selling the B-Class ED in 10 coastal states, including California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Maine, and hasn’t said anything about when a broader release might happen.

US diesel vehicle sales are up 25% this year

Danny King:

Going against popular perception, diesel vehicles are showing some pretty good pickup. The context, of course, is US sales of oil-burners. And those sales are on the rise as more Americans look to cut refueling costs via more fuel-efficient vehicles.
 US clean-diesel sales through June have jumped 25 percent from a year earlier, outpacing the 4.2 percent increase of total vehicle sales, says Diesel Technology Forum, citing research from HybridCars.com and Baum & Associates. In fact, diesels, which account for about three percent of US vehicle sales now, may double that marketshare by 2018, as more Americans are attracted to a powertrain that on average delivers about 30 percent better fuel economy than similar gas-powered engines. In all, there are 46 diesel models in the US, including 27 cars and SUVs, so it’s not just all about big torquey rumbling pickup trucks anymore.

Average American Spends $30,000 on a car, but can afford $20,806

Check Tannert:

You’ve seen the video on YouTube: Steve Mahan, a visually impaired, conservatively dressed, white-haired gentleman with a walking cane and Ben Hogan-style hat on his head, climbs behind the wheel of one of Google’s nautical blue-colored self-driving Toyota Prius. He makes a “Run for the Border.” Then Mahan, who has lost 95% of his eyesight, picks up his dry cleaning, takes a joy ride around his middle class looking community while munching on tacos. Then he returns to his driveway, exits the car (tacos in hand), and heads off camera toward the house, safe and sound, never having touched a steering wheel, brake or accelerator.

The clip is amusing and tremendously uplifting–showing how autonomous driving technology can empower a person, giving them a sense of independence and freedom to do whatever they want, when they want to do it. Problem is, most Americans (disabled or not) can’t afford such a vehicle, even if one were available, let alone the advanced driving assist systems that are available to the public now, and serve as the building blocks of autonomous automobiles.

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average American spends around $30,000 on a new car or light truck. In contrast, Interest.com’s 2013 Car Affordability Study says that the average American can only afford to spend $20,806 on a car. The featured Prius, which starts at around $24,000, is optioned up with a $75,000 to $80,000 Velodyne LIDAR system, visual and radar sensors estimated to cost about $10,000, and a nearly $200,000 GPS array. Not to mention the cost of the driving computer and software. Put into context: The staid-looking Toyota Prius Mahan “drove” around in the video costs more than a Ferrari 599. At $320,000, that’s an exclusive purchase, and well above the mean cost of a car, truck or SUV.

Automotive Personalization Company Uses 3D Printing to Customize Luxury Vehicles

Tiffany Orr:

Most people think owning a 3D printer is like having your own factory in a box, and it is– 3D printing is extremely useful for mass production on the fly. However, 3D printing is also useful for making one-off, one-of-a-kind items. To prove it, one need not look further than Ai Design.
 Ai Design is a luxury car manufacturer. Unlike other car companies that pump out designs assembly-line style, Ai takes a personalized approach. Each vehicle the company produces is completely based on customer demand. Customers come to Ai with an idea for how they want their car to look, and the company sets about designing, engineering and building that dream vehicle.
 Because each vehicle Ai Design makes is bespoke, manufacturing one car can be time-consuming. “No two customer parts are the exact same. Even if we’re working on the same model, make and year, the geometries can differ,” said Todd Henderson, director of sales and marketing for Ai Design.

California very much in running for Tesla Gigafactory

SF Chronicle:

But are those issues – especially the regulatory ones – being addressed sufficiently and in time. Steinberg’s bill exempting Mather Field from painstaking environmental reviews has yet to be drafted, let alone sent to the Legislature, which doesn’t return to work until Aug. 4.
 Meanwhile, other sites have been suggested, including, I’m told, Concord Naval Weapons Station in Contra Costa County. That could further delay a formal package of proposals from California, which is up against a deadline set by Tesla. Sproule would not disclose the deadline, nor when the decision would be announced.

VW Sets Sights on Apple-Like Updates With New Speed Team

Christoph Rauwald:

To accelerate vehicle development, Volkswagen is forming a task force that will include 40 to 60 top managers in the coming months, according to internal documents from the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company that were obtained by Bloomberg News. The group will identify the steps needed to change from the industry’s traditional approach of revamping models every seven years as technology developments including in-car connectivity and electric motors call for speedier reaction times.
 “How can we shorten today’s model cycles and make them significantly more flexible?” Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn said in a transcript of a speech to managers dated July 14. “Consumer electronics with ever-new technologies and products set the pace.”
 VW’s push comes as autos rapidly absorb new technologies. President Barack Obama this week highlighted U.S. carmakers’ research on technology to allow vehicles to communicate with each other to reduce traffic jams and accidents. Consumer attitudes toward cars are also changing, forcing a rethink by automakers.

Via Benedict Evans.

In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates

Jessica Silver-Greenburg & Michael Corkery:

Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan.
 “I am not sure how I got the loan,” Mr. Durham, age 60, said.
 Mr. Durham’s application said that he made $35,000 as a technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., according to a copy of the loan document. But he says he told the dealer he hadn’t worked at the hospital for more than three decades. Now, after months of Wells Fargo pressing him over missed payments, the bank has repossessed his car.

“must realign the brands in an Alfred Sloan sort of way”

Dan Neil:

As an economic proposition, modern auto-making relies on both speed and overwhelming scale, A to Z, and when, as a visitor to an assembly hall, you step to the edge of this river of finished goods murmuring past, it’s nothing less than amazing. Best “How It’s Made” episode ever.
 But I’m also a skeptical Kansas schoolgirl—hey, I like being Dorothy!—so when in June I visited Maserati’s new, 1.1-million-square-foot assembly hall in Grugliasco, Italy, outside Turin, I had a lot of questions. And believe me, they had answers. This place, on the site of the former Bertone works, is the linchpin in Maserati’s sweeping reinvention being led by Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

“These Buicks can connect up to seven of your personal tech devices directly to the car”

Rusty Blazenhoff writing on GM’s FastLane Blog:

As a blogger, it would be invaluable to have access to the world’s information wherever I travel. I imagine being able to pull off the side of the road and create an instant mobile office. As someone who gets lost easily, it would make me feel safer and more secure knowing the OnStar team had my back with directions and roadside assistance. Of course, as a mom, it would be awesome to be able to stave off my daughter’s inevitable cries of “Are we there yet?” with downloaded entertainment. 🙂
 Having this innovative technology built right into our vehicles seems so futuristic, but I’m here to tell you, the future is here and like our special field trip, it’s magical.



Ed Wallace:

Recently our esteemed media competitor in the eastern part of the Metroplex wrote a column about Toyota’s decision to move to the Metroplex. Its thrust was that witnessing how many pickup trucks there are in North Texas and how our citizens use them might change the way Toyota’s executives view their Tundra. Once here, when those executives see for themselves that trucks are as much a lifestyle vehicle as a mobile tool for working Texans, some believe they will demand changes to make their truck more competitive.
 The lifestyle part is true enough. Some Texas drivers have owned pickup trucks for years and have never once put anything into the bed.
 It is equally true that most domestic auto manufacturers love full-sized trucks and large SUVs simply because those vehicles produce their best profit margins. Then again, the seeds of the auto industry’s next crisis will be the same ones that grew into its last two crises: Detroit depends almost completely on sales of large trucks and SUVs for its profits, often struggling to turn any sort of meaningful profit on the outstanding cars all of its automakers now sell.
 Meanwhile, even if Toyota had never introduced its exceptional Tundra pickup truck, it would still be the most profitable automobile manufacturer in the world. After all, Toyota earned almost double the operating profit of the Ford Motor Company in 2013 by selling just shy of 10 million vehicles, of which only 113,000 were Tundras. Ford, in contrast, sold upwards of three quarters of a million F Series trucks, but they accounted for more than 30 percent of Ford’s North American sales and the majority of their profits.

3D-printed car to debut at manufacturing show

Fox News:

Local Motors wants to change the way America makes things. In fact, it already has.
 The Phoenix-based automotive and industrial design and manufacturing outfit was one of the pioneers of cloud-based co-creation, where members of a 150,000-member strong online community submit and refine ideas for products, dramatically speeding up the process.
 Founded in 2007, its first project was the Rally Fighter, a high-speed off-roader built from a mix of original parts and off-the-shelf components that’s manufactured in small numbers at what Local Motors calls a microfactory. Each vehicle it produces is an updated version of the one before it.
 Since then, the company has branched out into a variety of projects, from electric bikes to home appliances and a military vehicle prototype developed in just four and a half months.
 That last one shouldn’t be a surprise. The company’s CEO, Jay Rogers, is a Princeton and Harvard-educated U.S. Marine, a veteran of the Iraq War with a clear vision for how to get things done effectively and efficiently, while always leaving room for improvement.


Analysis of a consumer survey on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Joseph S. KrupaDonna M. RizzoMargaret J. EppsteinD. Brad LanuteDiann E. GaalemaKiran LakkarajuChristina E. Warrender::

 911 Surveys r.e. plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) extensively analyzed.
 Collected on Amazon Mechanical Turk crowd-sourcing platform and posted online.
 Strongest climate or energy concerns raise odds of PHEV acceptance by 44 or 71.
 Those most open to PHEVs will only pay average of $1858 to save $500/yr in gas.
 Up-front incentives and ads targeting environmentalists may be most effective.
 Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) show potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase fuel efficiency, and offer driving ranges that are not limited by battery capacity. However, these benefits will not be realized if consumers do not adopt this new technology. Several agent-based models have been developed to model potential market penetration of PHEVs, but gaps in the available data limit the usefulness of these models. To address this, we administered a survey to 1000 stated US residents, using Amazon Mechanical Turk, to better understand factors influencing the potential for PHEV market penetration. Our analysis of the survey results reveals quantitative patterns and correlations that extend the existing literature. For example, respondents who felt most strongly about reducing US transportation energy consumption and cutting greenhouse gas emissions had, respectively, 71 and 44 times greater odds of saying they would consider purchasing a compact PHEV than those who felt least strongly about these issues. However, even the most inclined to consider a compact PHEV were not generally willing to pay more than a few thousand US dollars extra for the sticker price. Consistent with prior research, we found that financial and battery-related concerns remain major obstacles to widespread PHEV market penetration. We discuss how our results help to inform agent-based models of PHEV market penetration, governmental policies, and manufacturer pricing and marketing strategies to promote consumer adoption of PHEVs.

No evidence that California cellphone ban decreased accidents, says CU-Boulder researcher

CU Boulder:

In a recent study, a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder found no evidence that a California ban on using hand-held cellphones while driving decreased the number of traffic accidents in the state in the first six months following the ban.
 The findings, published in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, are surprising given prior research that suggests driving while using a cellphone is risky. For example, past laboratory studies have shown that people who talk on a cellphone while using driving simulators are as impaired as people who are intoxicated.
 “If it’s really that dangerous, and if even just a fraction of people stop using their phones, we would expect to find some decrease in accidents,” said Daniel Kaffine, an associate professor of economics at CU-Boulder and an author of the study. “But we didn’t find any statistical evidence of a reduction.”

Via Stefan Constantine.

Event: The automated future 26 August LA

The Petersen:

Please join us on Saturday, July 26th for an in-depth discussion about autonomous vehicles and the implication of this new technology on both the automotive industry and its consumers. Moderated by BJ Killeen, automotive journalist as well as Road Test Editor and co-host of Drivers Talk Radio, hear presentations from Bernard Soriano, Deputy Director for the California Department of Motor Vehicles and in charge of the department’s autonomous vehicles program; Richard Mason, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation who led the Golem Group garage team in building three robot cars for the DARPA Grand Challenge for Autonomous Ground Vehicles from 2003-2007; and Jason Schulz, Partnership Manager for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) 21st Century Business Partnerships group, who leads a team to research, identify and leverage new technologies and companies to uniquely develop automotive products and services for the 21st Century.

The Future of Driving

George P. Shultz, Robert C. Armstrong

Into the future, revolutions in vehicle automation and networking hold the promise to transform freight and personal road transport, reducing both congestion and energy use for whatever fuel system is used. Variations on advanced vehicle sensing of the environment and automated technologies range from incremental additions to driver abilities—such as adaptive cruise control, stop-and-go traffic management, or lane departure control—all the way to full vehicle autonomy.

Most compellingly, many such technologies could both reduce overall vehicle energy use and offer other more immediate consumer-facing benefits. For example, automated parking capability within an urban area would save time and fuel while reducing curb-side pollution and even cutting down on the significant urban road congestion caused by drivers circling for available parking spaces. Similarly, to the extent that active safety automation reduces the number of vehicle crashes, manufacturers could rely less on passive safety mechanisms such as airbags or steel safety cages—in effect, making vehicles much lighter. This could both dramatically improve vehicle energy efficiency and over time mitigate the ongoing global rise in highway mortality; already 1.3 million people are killed each year in road accidents and an additional 20 to 50 million people are injured according to the World Health Organization. Some of these technologies have grown out of military-sponsored university research—for example, the well-known “DARPA challenges”—and are in early testing stages by vehicle manufacturers and third-party parts suppliers. Considerable work remains, though, in proving this technology’s flexibility and safety, along with establishing both legal frameworks and user norms.

Why Tesla Motors can’t sell cars in most of the United States

Ben Gilbert:

Tesla Motors makes beautiful, quality electric automobiles. Don’t just take it from us; Consumer Reports rated the Tesla Model S the “best overall” car in its 2014 Top Picks report (which includes all non-electric cars as well). Yet, despite Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s ongoing effort to expand his EV empire, state after state in the United States is pushing back. Not because those states are against electronic vehicles, Musk or even Tesla; it’s about the way Tesla wants to sell its cars. Specifically, it’s about money.

Life Without Cars

Paul Krugman:

I’ve been following some of the discussion about Uber, Lyft, and all that, and I have a few unoriginal thoughts. Well, strictly speaking they are original, in the sense that I haven’t read them anywhere else — but surely they’re out there. So this post is partly a bleg for references.
 Anyway: the big benefit from new IT-mediated car services will come if they make it possible for lots of people — and not just people in Manhattan — to live without owning their own cars. And if you think about it, you can see how that might work.
 Right now, if you live in places without exceptionally good public transportation, it’s very difficult to manage without a car. Yet when you think about it, for most people owning a car is quite wasteful. It’s an expensive item of equipment that sits idle most of the time; it requires parking (and often a parking structure) both at origin and at destination; it requires maintenance and is a big hassle all around.
 So reliable, quick-response chauffeur services could free many people from the need to tie up all those resources in a consumer durable that they only use now and then. And from a social point of view it would avoid the need to tie up so much capital that sits unused most of the time.

Via a Paul Brody.

US Administration ‘Answers’ Tesla Direct Sales Petition With A Brief ‘No’ And Several Paragraphs Of Self-Congratulatory Text

tech dirt:

The administration still doesn’t want to talk about pardoning Ed Snowden or reforming the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act), but it has stepped up to cherry pick another petition from the pile over at We The People. The petition, which asks for the government to step in and force states to allow Tesla to sell its cars directly to customers, was created more than a year ago. That puts it right on pace for petition answers, which still average nearly 300 days from the date of creation.

The petition is a little misguided but is an understandable response to state after state protecting incumbent car dealerships by attempting to force Tesla to sell through an established middleman. The amount of tax revenue generated by successful dealerships makes it very hard for state politicians to say “no.” It’s become so common over the past few years that the introduction of Tesla-targeting legislation is a fairly accurate barometer of political corruption.

The petition is simple: force states to allow Tesla to sell directly to consumers. The problem is that the Administration can’t rewrite state laws on the fly.

Riding the solar tuk-tuk


Naveen Rabelli’s tuk-tuk broke down the first time he rolled it out of his garage. The electrical engineer didn’t lose heart: now, he plans to drive his customised three-wheeler all the way to London.

Rabelli will leave India next year on a 9600km odyssey through 10 countries to promote the idea of environmentally friendly travel. His tuk-tuk, or auto rickshaw, is powered entirely by electricity and solar power.

“What better way is there to travel? The tuk-tuk is an Indian icon and this vehicle does not pollute the air in any way,” Rabelli, 33, told Reuters as he rode alongside a lake in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.

Since quitting his job with Reva, a unit of Indian car maker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd that makes electric vehicles, Rabelli has spent two years tinkering with his second-hand tuk-tuk.

Equipped with a new motor, battery and gearbox, the bright red vehicle – named Tejas, a Sanskrit word meaning splendour or brilliance – now bears little resemblance to the sputtering, diesel-fuelled three-wheelers ubiquitous on India’s roads.

Via Matt Grantham.

Always fasten your seatbelt, and your automotive wearables

Brian S Hall:

These newer features should make their way into more new cars at all price points in the coming years. In fact, the NHTSA has said all new cars must have rear-facing cameras by 2018.The problem, however, is that new car tech can be extremely expensive. Just as important, even the latest auto safety features do not know the driver. Wearable tech does. Wearable devices are loaded with sensors, placed on the body, and in constant contact with our smartphones and the cloud. This affords a new layer of safety and awareness not previously possible.There are millions of drivers in the US with diabetes that could benefit from a wearable bionic pancreas.
 There are also millions of elderly drivers. Last month in San Francisco, where wearables are commonplace among the digerati, two different elderly drivers crashed their vehicles into buildings within two days of one another.A wearable device, alerting the driver—and his car—of an impending heart attack, might have prevented these incidents by enabling the car to safely stop. A wearable that alerts family members that their aging father has taken the car out, or has been driving longer than expected, might also prove useful. When it comes to the road, knowledge can be a true lifesaver.

FBI sees self-driving cars as ‘lethal weapons’ for criminal ‘multitasking’

Mark Harris:

Google’s driverless car may remain a prototype, but the FBI believes the “game changing” vehicle could revolutionise high-speed car chases within a matter of years. The report also warned that autonomous cars may be used as “lethal weapons”.
 In an unclassified but restricted report obtained by the Guardian under a public records request, the FBI predicts that autonomous cars “will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car.”
 In a section called Multitasking, the report notes that “bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today.”

Google Appoints Alan Mulally to its Board of Directors

Google PR

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG, GOOGL) today announced it has appointed Alan Mulally to its Board of Directors. A veteran corporate executive of the automotive and aviation industries, Mulally will serve on Google’s Audit Committee. His appointment was effective July 9, 2014.

“Alan brings a wealth of proven business and technology leadership experience,” said Larry Page, CEO of Google. “I am so pleased that Alan is now joining Google’s board!”

“I am honored to serve on the board of a global iconic company that is dedicated to enhancing our lives,” Mulally said. “I look forward to working together with the Google board and management team to continue to deliver their compelling vision.”

Mr. Mulally served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company, a global automotive company, from September 2006 through June 2014. Mulally was previously a member of the board of directors of Ford and served on its finance committee from September 2006 through June 2014.

From March 2001 to September 2006, Mr. Mulally served as Executive Vice President of the Boeing Company and President and Chief Executive Officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Inc. He also was a member of the Boeing Executive Council. Prior to that time, he served as President of Boeing’s space and defense business.

via Bruce McLaughlin.

Daimler, BMW partnering up on wireless charging

Danny King:

Plug-in vehicle advocates can get all warm and fuzzy about two Germany heavyweight automakers getting together for the sake of wireless charging. That’s because Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and BMW will work together to speed up development of a wireless charging system. While not a ton of details were divulged, we can still rejoice.
 Daimler says the system will consist of an on-board coil and another coil that can be placed within the garage floor or someplace similarly stationary. The system will charge at 3.6 kilowatts and with 90 percent efficiency. No details were released about the system’s price or when it would be available, but Daimler shouldn’t wait too long, since other OEMs are already talking about their own wireless charging systems.

Introducing the First U.S. “Car Vending Machine”


Ernie Garcia, founder and president of Carvana, explains how the company allows customers to finance and purchase a vehicle entirely on the Internet. He speaks with Pimm Fox on “Taking Stock.”

Via Erich Zellmer.

Dubai Has An Abandoned Luxury Car Problem

Ned Hardy:

Some cities have a litter problem, some suffer from high crime rates and others might have a lack of affordable housing. And then you have Dubai, which for the last several years has been facing the unusual problem of high end sports cars being abandoned and left to gather thick layers of dust at airport car parks and on the roadside across the city. If you’ve ever been to Dubai or anywhere in the United Arab Emirates, you will have noticed they have a serious car culture out there, with a particular preference for the latest and greatest in high-end super cars. But like the rest of the world, Dubai has fallen on hard times. Once the hub of the oil economy and the centre of a booming property market, foreigners, mostly British, invested in the red hot market. Newly wealthy ex-pats bought the lastest Italian and German sports cars to compliment their millionaire lifestyles– and then the global economic crisis came along and burst everybody’s bubble. Thousands of the finest automobiles ever made are now being abandoned every year since Dubai’s financial meltdown, left by expatriates and locals alike who flee in a hurry because they face crippling debts. With big loans to repay to the banks (unpaid debt or even bouncing a cheque is a criminal offence in Dubai), the panicked car owners make their way to the airport at top speeds and leave their vehicles in the car park, hopping on the next flight out of there, never to return. Ferraris, Porsches, BMWs, Mercedes are regularly abandoned at the car park of Dubai International Airport, some with loan documents and apology notes simply left on the windscreen and in some cases with the keys still in the ignition. Last year, a Ferrari Enzo, one of only four hundred manufactured, was seized by police having spent several months in a car park collecting dust. The million dollar motor went on sale at auction alongside other Ferraris, Porsches, Range Rovers and Mercedes plucked from the roadside.

Via Stefan Constantine.

Which states have the worst roads in America?

Emily Badger:

As the fight over how to temporarily rescue the Highway Trust Fund ramps up this week, the White House would like you to know that 34 percent of the 172,201 miles of public roads you may drive in California are in poor condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The same is true of about 20 percent of Maryland’s roads, and 23 percent of New York’s. West Virginia, meanwhile, has some abominably bad-off bridges — 35 percent of the 7,125 in the state are considered structurally deficient.
 If Congress doesn’t plug the trust fund that’s set to run out of money next month, federal dollars that prop up state projects building and repairing roads and bridges will soon be rationed as new gas tax receipts come in, according to the DOT. The most direct way to raise money for the fund would be to raise the gas tax that fuels it (at least in the medium term). Instead, members of Congress are trying to come up with revenue this summer from sources that have nothing to do with transportation (one piece of the plan: allow companies to underfund their pensions). And they disagree even on how long a short-term fix should last, and what that timeline would mean for prospects for a long-term funding solution after the November election.
 In the meantime, construction jobs are in limbo. Governors are universally angry. And the White House is scaling up its public pressure campaign on Congress. Which brings us back to those numbers. This afternoon, the White House released the map below so you’ll know precisely how miffed your state should be about Congressional inaction. We give the White House points for interactivity, although the result is admittedly a bit clunky:

City Bike-Sharing Programs Hit Speed Bumps

Andrew Tangel:

At offices, parks, intersections and a pedestrian bridge across the Tennessee River, people here can rent bicycles from solar-powered stations to zip around, using extra-low gears on steep streets.

But it has been a tough road since the Bike Chattanooga program began two summers ago. The initial funding of $2.1 million has been spent, revenue has fallen short, and the number of yearly memberships sold to frequent riders is about 90% smaller than projected.

Bike-sharing programs are spreading across the U.S., with more than 21,000 shared bikes in at least 36 urban areas from Boston to Fort Worth, Texas, to Denver, up from just six programs in 2010, according to researchers.

Helsinki’s future transportation grid will let you order any service from one app

Jon Fingas:

Navigation apps can tell you how to get across town using only public transportation, but they don’t make it a seamless experience. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pay for bikes, buses and trains from a single app? If Helsinki has its way, you might. The Finnish city plans to test a transportation mesh that will not only show you how to get from point A to point B using multiple public methods, but let you pay for it all in one shot through software or a website. A few companies will help launch the trial run in the Vallila neighborhood around the end of the year, with expansions to other areas over time.

Uber as a car ownership alternative

Bill Gurley:

 Damodaran likely never considered this possibility: Could Uber reach a point in terms of price and convenience that it becomes a preferable alternative to owning a car? Farhad Manjoo wrote a compelling piece for the New York Times (“With Uber, Less Reason to Own a Car”) making just this argument. And Gregory Ferenstein at VentureBeat dove a little deeper in terms of the math of how this would work. According to Ferenstein, “AAA estimates that the average cost of car ownership per year is about $9,000.” If you take that number and divide it by your average Uber fare you can calculate number of rides you could afford a year, and compare that with what you need. For many, the math is already working. I know numerous people who have already given up their cars, and several people have anecdotally sent photos to Uber of the check they received for selling their car.
 Some interesting demographic trends are also underway that favor Uber’s opportunity in this market. First, there is the continuing trend of urbanization in America. But more importantly, America’s youth have fallen out of love with the notion of owning a car. Kids are no longer rushing to obtain their license on the day they turn 16, and according to Edmunds, car ownership among 18-34 year olds has fallen a full 30% in recent years. Here are just a few of many articles published over the past two years on this topic:

Why EV owners are so different from the rest of us

Barry Fischer and Ben Harack:

By day, electric vehicles are taking the world by storm: their sales are doublingevery year, their fuel efficiency is off the charts, and some of them can even accelerate from 0-60 mph about as fast as you can say “Elon Musk.”

By night, the electric vehicle (EV) community continues to make waves. While you are in bed dreaming about how you too might own an electric car someday, many EV owners are doing something that is reshaping the energy landscape.

They are using gobs of electricity.

Today we once again crack open Opower’s energy data storehouse — the world’s largest, spanning more than 50 million households worldwide — to examine the energy usage behavior of an increasingly important segment of utility customers: electric car owners who charge their car in the wee hours of the night.

Via Matt Grantham.

German airport rolls out world’s first robotic parking valet

Tech News:

Dusseldorf Airport has rolled out what it’s calling the world’s first robotic parking valet that spares time-crunched travelers from having to circle lots looking for a parking space.
 Named Ray, the robot was put to work last week and operates like a forklift, picking up cars and positioning them in one of the dedicated 249 spots reserved for the automated valets, reports Airport World.
 The robot can carry standard cars weighing up to 3.31 tons (3,002.78kg).
 To use, drivers leave their cars in the drop-off area and confirm via touchscreen ticket machine that the car is indeed empty and ready to go.

Google Co-Founder ​Sergey Brin Doesn’t Understand Us And Never Will

Damin Lavrinc:

Sergey Brin lives in another world. Like every other non-gearhead, he doesn’t understand us. He doesn’t get why we wrench in our garages, spend weekends at track days, or take off in the middle of the night for a ride. He’s like your Aunt Martha, except Brin has the power to change the world. And he doesn’t make those awesome cookies.
 Brin recently joined his compatriot, Google CEO Larry Page, on stage with venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to chat about where Google is headed.
 In many respects, where Google goes, so goes the world, so naturally, the conversation turned to self-driving cars.

‘Trabantimino’ Comes to Bridgehampton

Marshall Heyman:

At one time or another, the Bridge, an exclusive golf club on 520 acres here founded by former AIG trader Robert Rubin, operated as a racetrack. In turn, the entrance and its environs has a feeling of Radiator Springs, the cartoon village that appears in the 2006 Pixar film “Cars,” as well as an area of Disneyland’s California Adventure.

“I’ve always been a car nut,” said Mr. Rubin last week. He has filled the Bridge’s actual clubhouse, designed by the architect Roger Ferris, with car-related art from Kristin Baker, Peter Cain, Lucien Smith, Tom Sachs and Richard Prince.

A Survey of Auto Industry Job Titles

CAR Magazine:

Car companies are diversifying into new areas of specialism – and this attention to detail is bringing some novel new job titles to the automotive industry. A quick browse through the recruitment pages and job ads reveals that manufacturers are hiring for strange and unusual roles. Here’s a pick of the job titles we found recently. Tell us if you’ve spotted any by clicking ‘Add your comment’ at the foot of the page!

Bill Ford predicts ‘radical transformation’ of auto industry

Kathleen Burke:

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford sees a bright — albeit remodeled — future for the automotive industry, according to an op-ed story he authored in The Wall Street Journal.

As part of the newspaper’s 125th anniversary of its first issue today, national figures gave their predictions on where the world is moving. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the daunting task of bringing the globe online and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers wrote on the grim future of jobs in the face of technological advances, Ford called for a fundamental change in the role of the automotive industry.

“Forward-looking companies will redefine themselves and move from being just car and truck manufacturers to become personal-mobility companies,” he wrote.

Via Steve Crandall.

Germany to charge foreign motorists for autobahn use


Germany has announced plans to tax the millions of foreign motorists who use its roads, including the famous autobahn motorway, from 2016 onwards.

Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said the levy should raise 2.5bn euros (£1.98bn) over four years.

Vehicles will be issued with badges, costing between 10 euros for 10 days and about 100 euros for a year-long permit.

Critics of the planned toll say it violates EU anti-discrimination laws.

While vehicles registered in Germany will also have to pay the charge, their owners will be compensated by an equivalent reduction in a separate car tax.

Cars Are Racing Toward Disruption

Steven Sinofsky:

It might seem like a small point today, but the locus of innovation in automobile electronics is shifting from hardware to software, and from the car manufacturers to innovative companies building transportation capabilities using mobile platforms. We see the convenience of using maps on a phone with crowdsourced data for road and traffic conditions. We’ve also seen entertainment unbundled, with the ubiquitous tablet now serving as the prime back-seat entertainer. Features that used to be original equipment or add-ons are better, more agile to change, and cost less when offered through modern mobile platforms.
 This sign has two disruptive elements. First, it is an economic challenge for auto makers who have spent enormous energy building out business and sales approaches based on car “electronics.” Disruption to this disrupts the economics of auto sales, especially since safety and comfort have been “pulled” into the assumed base price of cars.
 Familiarity and personalization of transportation comes from what is on my mobile device — not in the car — making the transition from one vehicle to another more seamless.
 Second, from a consumer or owner perspective, the familiarity and personalization of transportation comes from what is on my mobile device, not in the car, making the transition from one vehicle to another much more seamless. LocalMotion (Disclosure: Along with Lyft, it’s an a16z portfolio company; I serve on its board) even unbundles the most basic car functionality of entry and ignition, by using an RFID or other means to access the car. With that come all sorts of features previously dependent on a specific car, from GPS location to repair notification — all on my mobile device.

Toyota r&d boss: EVs in need of a Nobel idea

automotive news:

The technology needed to make electric vehicles viable hasn’t even been invented yet, says Mitsuhisa Kato, Toyota’s global r&d chief.
 “The cruising distance is so short for EVs, and the charging time is so long,” said Kato. “At the current level of technology, somebody needs to invent a Nobel Prize-winning type battery.”
 To deliver the range of a regular gasoline vehicle, today’s EVs need more batteries, which in turn would increase the cost and charging time, he said, calling it a “vicious cycle.”

5 reasons why cars in the US are more fuel-efficient than ever

Brad Plumer:

The fuel economy of new cars and trucks in the United States basically stagnated during the 1980s and ’90s before rising again after 2004.
 Why the sudden shift? For one, global oil prices started rising, spurring drivers to buy fuel-efficient vehicles. Then, in 2007, Congress imposed a new round of fuel-economy standards on automakers — the first time those requirements had been tightened since 1984. The Obama administration later raised those fuel-economy goals even higher.
 (Also note that this is only for new cars sold in a given year. The average fuel economy of all cars on the road is obviously lower: about 23.3 miles per gallon in 2012 for light-duty vehicles with a short wheel base, and 17.1 miles per gallon for vehicles with a longer wheel base.)

Tesla Starts Ramping Up Autopilot Driving Unit

uauto insurance:

The above table shows key hiring from across industry majors such as BMW (Darren Licardo), Hyundai (Andrew Gray) & Volvo (Stefan Solyom) for managerial & leadership positions. The engineering background of all these key hires includes an education in Robotics, Mechanical & Electrical engineering from places such as Carnegie Mellon, MIT and UC Berkeley. The list of the key people & the backgrounds are at the end of the research note.
 Besides, these key hires, there are several internal Tesla groups & personnel that are increasingly supporting Autopilot & Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) activities. For example, long time Tesla engineers Benjamin Thompson & Cam Christie are supporting more ADAS related activities along with their core infotainment focus. In addition, to the Infotainment teams, engineers in the powertrain group such as Justin Sill are also supporting ADAS/Autopilot activities.
 Director level employees such as David Lau (Firmware) & Satish Jeyachandran (Hardware Engineering), have been given additional responsibilities around autonomous driving along with prior responsibilities. The autonomous driving push has also percolated to internships where at least four interns from Duke University, University of Minnesota & Georgia Tech have worked on these initiatives.

Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things

Carl Alviani:

The problem, of course, is that no matter how egregious their behavior was, the three people he observed don’t indicate that “cyclists consider themselves above the law,” any more than a pair of jaywalkers prove that pedestrians are morally opposed to crosswalks. It also takes the very broad problem of traffic violations and limits it to a single minority, ignoring the millions of car and truck drivers who flout the law every day, not to mention those scofflaw pedestrians.
 What Simon did in this pair of tweets was overgeneralize about a large group based on the behavior of a few members, and then tie that group to another member with a lot of bad press—two demonizing tactics that’ve been employed pretty much forever, to attack groups ranging from corporate lawyers to Asian drivers to welfare recipients.
 Numerous replies pointed out as much, the most entertaining coming from author Eben Weiss, who writes a popular long-running blog out of New York City called BikeSnob:

“Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete”

Giles Parkinson:

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.
 For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.
 “Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.
 That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office building are in use, factories are in production. That’s when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.


Kids Don’t Care About Cars

Bob Lefsetz:

You mean I need a bigger engine and a swoopy style to get laid? I just go on Tinder!
 Welcome to the baby boomer nightmare, wherein everything they’ve held near and dear becomes irrelevant. Like automobiles.
 Cars are a utility.
 It’s not the seventies anymore, no one ever bows out of an affair citing car trouble. I’ve got a AAA membership, but I only use it to get tires changed in seedy areas, the concept of a tow because my carburetor is clogged is about as foreign as the blue screen of death. (And new cars come with run-flat tires!)
 Yes, remember how you used to need to know how computers worked to use one? Same deal with cars. Everybody had a modicum of expertise, having experienced flaws and shoddy maintenance. But today you just turn ’em on and they go, you don’t have to even take your key out of your pocket. Sure, you might smash your automobile up, but Google’s developing an app for that, otherwise known as the driverless car.
 Joy in driving? Taking a few weeks or months to drive cross- country? Why would anybody want to do THAT!
 Yup, the road trip is as dead as the western. You could recast “Bonanza” and no one under forty would watch.
 As for the freedom the automobile once represented…
 You don’t have to leave your house to connect with your friends, you don’t have go to the mall, as for doing illicit things…sexting is more outre and volatile than anything baby boomers could ever cook up.
 To the younger generation cars are transportation, nothing more. They take you from a to b. But appealing to the older generation, manufacturers don’t develop products that fit this appeal, they keep touting all the stuff that worked in decades past. Appearance, specs. They don’t even understand their own product!
 Ever notice that every smartphone looks the same? Yup, a rectangular brick. And it’s about customization via software? Credit the car companies with putting apps in the dash, but if they want to win they’re going to have to move as fast as the tech companies, one of which is eating their lunch.
 Imagine if Tesla had a 20k car. Yup, a utility you just plugged in, that didn’t harm the environment, something simple, futuristic… Then GM and Toyota would to be very afraid. Because kids embrace the new and care about the environment. All that brand equity in GM? A youngster cares not a whit about that.
 Nor does he or she care about a Ferrari. If you buy one of these sleek automobiles, I hope you enjoy driving it, because your image is gonna take a hit. All the young girls you want to impress will be laughing at you, you wasted all your money on WHAT?
 So long Ferrari. So long Aston Martin. So long the SUV.
 Do you think kids want to own a big box with terrible mileage just like their parents drive?
 Just because cars have lasted a century, that does not mean they’re here to stay, that does not mean they’re not ripe for disruption. Cars are the newspapers of today. Something oldsters can’t live without and youngsters can.
 The basic premise is you’ve got to go. How you get there is irrelevant. Furthermore, the costs of car ownership…the insurance and the gas, never mind the maintenance, none of them appeal to a youngster who believes all costs should be baked in.
 Hidden fees are anathema to the younger generation. They’ll pay, but you’ve got to be honest.
 In other words, we live in a world built by baby boomers that does not square at all with the needs of their progeny.
 You don’t hear kids clutching to their CDs, never mind MP3s. They don’t complain about sound quality. They don’t bitch about the way it used to be.
 Unless you’re willing to question all your preconceptions, you’re going to be left behind.
 It’s the sixties once again, with a giant generation gap that the self-satisfied oldsters just can’t understand.
 But they’re envious of.
 Come on, a world where everybody’s interconnected, where few are lonely because even geeks and nerds can connect, and everything’s at your fingertips?
 Fifty years from now smartphones will look quaint. Bandwidth speeds will be laughed at like floppy disks. The revolution we embrace will be in the rearview mirror.
 Just like that machine you’re overpaying every month for to impress people who no longer care.

Why Americans fell out of love with the automobile

PJ O’Rourke:

The phrase “bankrupt General Motors,” which we expect to hear uttered on Monday, leaves Americans my age in economic shock. The words are as melodramatic as “Mom’s nude photos.” And, indeed, if we want to understand what doomed the American automobile, we should give up on economics and turn to melodrama.
 Politicians, journalists, financial analysts and other purveyors of banality have been looking at cars as if a convertible were a business. Fire the MBAs and hire a poet. The fate of Detroit isn’t a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It’s a tragic romance—unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses.
 Foremost are the horses. Cars can’t be comprehended without them. A hundred and some years ago Rudyard Kipling wrote “The Ballad of the King’s Jest,” in which an Afghan tribesman avers: Four things greater than all things are,—Women and Horses and Power and War.
 Insert another “power” after the horse and the verse was as true in the suburbs of my 1950s boyhood as it was in the Khyber Pass.

Independence on wheels: Your car is more than a conveyance—it’s freedom

Alex Nunez:

Today we celebrate our independence as a nation with parties, parades, fireworks, and all the attendant fun. Chances are, you’ll drive to one or all of the aforementioned events.
 You will take that drive for granted. You shouldn’t.
 July 4th is a great opportunity to look at your ride, be it a Prius or a Pantera, and remember that it’s more than just a machine. It’s a symbol of independence, right there in your driveway.
 That car of yours is freedom.
 No, it’s not inexpensive to own and operate. Insurance isn’t cheap. Neither is gas. Depending on where you live, you might have the annual “privilege” of paying property tax on it, too. And don’t forget the ongoing maintenance costs. It can all get daunting at times.

October 2067

Ed Wallace

Almost 20 years ago, a friend who sat on the National Acura Dealers Council was invited to attend meetings in Japan with Honda’s top executives to discuss their long-term plans. Unlike here in the States, where our entire business focus seems to be what the stock price for GoPro will be on Monday, Honda’s top people laid out then where their automotive focus would be, not just five years out, but in 2050, the year that Honda believed would mark the end of the Oil Age.

As it turned out, most of the Japanese automakers had studied the oil industry and its known and potential future reserves. All had come to almost the identical conclusion — that oil would cease to be a viable commodity in this century’s middle year.

So, shortly after that conference, Honda introduced the Civic GX, which would run on natural gas. At the same time, all manufacturers walked away from their first generation of electric cars in California, thinking them a poor investment that would never pan out. Still, as the natural gas-powered Civic came to market, so did the world’s first mass-production hybrid electric, the Honda Insight. That vehicle would quickly be followed by the more mainstream and far more successful Toyota Prius.

No one here ever connected these much more fuel-efficient vehicles’ arrival with the 1997 meetings between some Japanese automakers and their best dealers, warning them that within five decades their current business model would not longer be viable

Your Car Will Tell on You

Ed Wallace

It was the late 1990s when stories started circulating about Black Boxes, which recorded certain basic events critical to accident reconstruction, being put into automobiles. Like the NSA, automakers misled the public on how many such devices new cars were carrying, at first claiming it was just small test of those devices; ultimately we found out that their usage was already widespread. But the implications were clear: Should you be involved in a major accident, your vehicle’s Black Box might tell a completely different story than the one being peddled in a lawsuit.

Those Black Boxes saved Toyota’s skin during the unintended acceleration fiasco a few years ago. And in the current case of GM’s ignition problems, most reports blame a defect in those cars involved in accidents: The ignition was found in the Off position. Conversely, the devices also revealed high speed, right up until the moment of impact, indicating that the engine was still running.

Why would automakers install such devices in their vehicles? Self defense, for one reason. It is widely known that, in many lawsuits against automakers, the victims often make up outrageous stories to validate their claims. But now, for the first time in the auto industry’s history, car companies could produce proof that many accidents were the drivers’ fault, not any failure of their product.

That said, from day one car buyers should have been informed if their vehicle had such a device installed — and that their own automobile could be used against them in a court of law. If nothing else, knowing that your car was spying on you might have well improved the driving habits of more than a few individuals.

“is the obvious fact that it’s easier to expand the function of a mobile computer when it’s incorporated into a car than it is to jam everything into a handheld device with limited battery power.”

Tiernan Ray:

The appeal for all of these parties is the obvious fact that it’s easier to expand the function of a mobile computer when it’s incorporated into a car than it is to jam everything into a handheld device with limited battery power.
 ONCE LTE CONNECTIONS are prevalent, the monthly cost of wireless service could be wrapped into the car’s financing package.
 It may be decades before Google’s self-driving car is a reality, but automated functions such as “drive-by-wire throttle” and “by-wire braking” may not only assist but also send enough safety and hazard information to the cloud that their use becomes mandated by regulators on new-model cars.
 One can imagine a point system for drivers who meet certain goals for efficient driving, as recorded by their car’s onboard monitoring systems, reducing insurance premiums. Then again, how many drivers really want insurers monitoring their highway speeds?

Remarkable. Perhaps the cellular operators are in the midst of an auto push?
 The writer’s perspective is rather unique and seems to lack an understanding of present automotive cycle times.

No crankshaft, no problem: Toyota’s free piston engine is brilliant Gas piston engine fundamentals haven’t changed in 134 years—until now.

Jason Cammisa:

Let’s get one thing straight: The variable-valve-timing, direct-injection, turbo-wonderful powerplant in your new car is not cutting-edge. Despite the complexity of the modern engine, the fundamentals haven’t changed since Grover Cleveland was in office. Pistons turn a crankshaft that eventually spins your car’s wheels.
 Electrically driven cars are the future. But until we have cheap, 1000-mile batteries, we still need range-extending fossil-fuel engines. Those devices don’t need to turn wheels, just generate juice. The simple solution is to strap a generator to a piston engine, as BMW did with the two-cylinder range extender in its i3 EV. But if the engine never turns a wheel, there’s no need for it to rotate anything. Why not cut out the middleman and use the piston’s reciprocating motion to generate electricity? That obviates camshafts and most other rotating parts, too.

How we move in Cities

Human Data (video):

Human helps people move almost twice as much in six weeks. Every day, people track millions of activities with our app. We visualized 7.5 Million miles of activity in major cities all across the globe to get an insight into Human activity. Walking, running, cycling, and motorized transportation data tell us different stories.

Sogefi, Audi develop new suspension spring technology


The new suspension springs, based on a technology patented by Sogefi, will be made from a glass fiber-reinforced polymer instead of steel and will weigh between 40-70 percent less than traditional steel springs, the company said.

They can be assembled on cars and light commercial vehicles without affecting the suspension system architecture, allowing for a weight reduction of 4-6 kg (8.8-13 lb) per vehicle, it added.

Via Stefan Constantine.

BlaBlaCar Raises A Massive $100 Million Round To Create A Global Long Distance Ride-Sharing Network


BlaBlaCar Raises A Massive $100 Million Round To Create A Global Long Distance Ride-Sharing Network

In what is the largest VC round in a French startup of all time, BlaBlaCar just raised a $100 million round led by Index Ventures, with existing investors Accel Partners, ISAI and Lead Edge Capital also participating in the round. Previously, Deezer raised a $130 million round from Warner Music Group’s owner Access Industries, but it wasn’t VC money per se.

Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K

Christopher Helman:

For the new issue of Forbes Magazine I wrote an article about David Crane, the visionary CEO of NRG Energy NRG -0.7%. When I met Crane for lunch a couple weeks ago, no sooner had we sat down than he began singing the praises of this new contraption he had in his basement. The machine — which can generate 10 kilowatts of continuous power, fed by Crane’s natural gas line — is a new iteration of an old creation, the Stirling engine. This version, called the Beacon 10, was created after a decade of engineering by famed inventor Dean Kamen.
 I caught up with Kamen (who is best known for creating the Segway scooter) over the phone last week to ask him about the device. “We’ve turned his basement into an extension of our laboratory,” said Kamen. “It’s certainly not a machine made for the typical home, but he has a gigantic swimming pool and a huge house.”
 With the Beacon 10, says Kamen, “you don’t have to feel guilty heating up the pool.” That’s because of the highly efficient nature of the Stirling engine. First conceived in 1816 by Scottish minister Robert Stirling, the device in its simplest form consists of applying an external heat source to a closed cylinder where the cyclical expansion and compression of air inside the cylinder drives the pistons up and down. Unlike your car, where fuel is combusted inside the engine, the Stirling is an external combustion engine; it can work with any external heat source.

Intel Chases Sales on Silicon Road to Driverless Cars

Ian Smith:

Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp. — pioneers in the production of chips for computers and phones — are finding it harder to make inroads into the auto industry.
 Consider Hyundai Motor Co. (005380)’s new 2015 Genesis, a luxury sedan brimming with semiconductors that handle everything from automatic braking and lane-keeping sensors to blind-spot detection. Other chips enable the car to open the trunk when it senses the owner’s arms are full, and to sniff for carbon dioxide to decide if the cabin needs more fresh air.

Via Tab Dump.

Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan News Roundup

Cameron Miquelon:

In today’s hydrogen digest: Toyota asks the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a two-year exemption on its FCV; the automaker banks on subsidies to help the FCV leave the showrooms at home and abroad; and ammonia may be the secret to hydrogen’s success as a fuel.
 Bloomberg reports Toyota is asking the NHTSA for a two-year exemption from FMVSS No. 305, which requires automakers to isolate high-voltage parts in electric cars in the event of a crash. The FCV doesn’t meet this rule in full because said isolation would render the vehicle inoperable, opting instead to use insulation on high-voltage cables and related components to protect first responders and occupants from potential electrical shocks in the event of a low-speed accident. Toyota claims the protections will be at least equal to those in compliance with the agency’s rule.
 Meanwhile, Automotive News says the automaker is banking on subsidies at home and in markets such as the United States and Europe to help the FCV leave the showroom toward the path of success. The ¥7 million ($69,000 USD) will need a sizable credit to match its Lexus-esque pricing when it goes on sale in Japan next April; the highest subsidy is ¥850,000 (approximately $8,400). As for the U.S., where fueling infrastructure is woefully inadequate, Toyota may instead opt to lease the FCV, details of the plan still in discussion.