Our cities shouldn’t rely on Uber to devise new transport choices

Evgeny Morozov:

As regulators from India to France continue to crack down on Uber, the popular taxi-hailing app, the company has embarked on a charm offensive. All of a sudden, Uber’s once combative and tone-deaf executives laud the importance of regulating their industry. They also seem to grasp why the company makes for such an easy target: it’s just too nasty. Thus, during the recent Juno winter storm in the US, Uber agreed to halt its controversial practice of surge pricing, whereby passengers see prices for journeys skyrocket because of increased demand.
 But this is not the whole of it. In a genius publicity gambit, Uber has also offered the city of Boston – once its staunch opponent – access to the troves of anonymised data about its journeys, all with the hope of easing traffic congestion and improving city planning. And – a sheer coincidence, of course – Massachusetts, Boston’s home state, has recently recognised taxi-sharing platforms as legal modes of transport, lifting one of the main barriers faced by Uber.

“As a result, most managing directors are now finance-based, not product-based. And they’d rather play follow my leader than innovate.”

Gavin Green:

Geoff Matthews agrees senior management has a lot to answer for: ‘The car industry is becoming increasingly cost-conscious, owing to the huge sums now involved in launching a new model. As a result, most managing directors are now finance-based, not product-based. And they’d rather play follow my leader than innovate. It’s safer that way. It may not be lucrative, but – for truly innovative ideas are usually highly profitable. And it may not be better for the industry. But it’s safer, and less likely to lose money.
 For instance, after the launch of the Golf, other company bosses knew that concept – radical at the time – was successful , so they got their designers to design a car virtually based on the Golf. The Peugeot 205 was the next big step in the small car class. Other companies, when trying to design a 205 rival, used it as their base. That’s no way to innovate.
 ‘The phobia all major manufacturers have about market-researching a car has also stifled innovation. Of course, you can understand management wanting some feedback from the general public, before committing hundreds of millions of pounds to a project. But many clinics – where the public pass judgement on new prototypes – just aren’t done properly.
 ‘It’s pointless asking the general public properly to judge an advanced car. These are people with today’s eyes; what do they know about tomorrow’s cars? They don’t have the vision to see one step ahead. I know from experience that, if you clinic potential small cars buyers in France, many will be Renault 5 owners: if you’re new car looks like a Renault 5, you’re flattering their tastes and they’ll probably like it. They feel more comfortable with a car that looks like their own. Clinics can slow progress. Some clinics, of course, are run more professionally than others. You should only take so much notice of a clinic. Some makers take too much.’
 Le Quement agrees that market research now has more power than ever before. ‘Test conditions, in clinics, are quite artificial. The public often get about two hours with the car. If they are surprised by something new, they’ll often reject it. Perhaps two hours later, after the clinic’s over, they’ll like it.
 ‘I’m absolutely convinced that the biggest risk of all is to take no risk. I have always been an advocate of instinctive design over exhaustive marketing. I told that to the president of Renault, when I joined. To my gratification, he agreed.’

BMW begins to encrypt auto communications !


BMW said it had taken steps to eliminate possible breaches by encrypting the communications inside the car using the same HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) standard used in Web browsers for secure transactions such as ecommerce or banking.
 BMW said it was able to update its ConnectedDrive software automatically, when the vehicle connects up to the BMW Group server or the driver calls up the service configuration manually.
 “The online capability of BMW Group ConnectedDrive allowed the gap to be closed quickly and safely in all vehicles,” BMW said. “There was no need for vehicles to go to the workshop.”


UK Official Says Encouraging Diesel Cars To Lower Carbon Was ‘Wrong’

Stephen Edelstein:

For at least 20 years, diesel cars have been much more popular in Europe than in the United States.
 Because diesel combustion is more efficient than gasoline combustion, the engines help drivers save money on fuel–and produce lower emissions of greenhouse gases.
 However, European countries have only recently adopted a similar strict level of emissions standards to the U.S.
 That’s led to public concerns over air quality, due to the high levels of nitrous oxides (NOx) and other harmful substances from diesel exhaust produced by engines without modern emission controls.
 Up through last year, the diesels sold throughout Europe that would not have been legal to sell in the U.S. for most of a decade.


Automotive 2025


Today, consumers are more engaged than ever – they not only want to use cars, they can be compelled to co-create them. Vehicles are increasingly intelligent, which is changing the concept of mobility including consumer-driven changes beyond the vehicle itself. This expanding ecosystem means learning to thrive under disruption as auto industry lines blur, especially as those in other industries join the mix, such as electronics and telecommunications enterprises.

Improved Vehicle Designs Bring Down Death Rate

Insurance Institute of Highway Safety:

The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model vehicle have fallen by more than a third in three years, the latest IIHS calculations of driver death rates show. Among 2011 models, a record nine vehicles have driver death rates of zero. However, the gap between the safest and riskiest models remains wide, and three cars have death rates exceeding 100 per million registered vehicle years.
 Improved vehicle designs and safety technology have a lot to do with the continuing decline in fatality risk. In a related study, Institute researchers estimated how much of the decline was due to changes in the vehicle fleet during 1985-2012. They found that vehicle changes — including improved structural designs, the addition of safety features and an evolving mix of vehicle types — were the main source of declining risk from 1993 through 2006. These changes continued to contribute to later declines as well, though other factors such as the weak economy also appear to have played a role.
 There were 7,700 fewer driver deaths in 2012 alone than there would have been had vehicles remained the same since 1985.
 The latest death rates by make and model confirm the rapid pace of improvement. Among 2011 models, there were 28 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years through the 2012 calendar year, down from 48 for 2008 models through 2009 (see “Death rates by model: SUV drivers are among least likely to be killed,” June 9, 2011). A registered vehicle year is one vehicle registered for one year.
 “This is a huge improvement in just three years, even considering the economy’s influence,” says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “We know from our vehicle ratings program that crash test performance has been getting steadily better. These latest death rates provide new confirmation that real-world outcomes are improving, too.”

250 Million: Number of Connected Vehicles on the Road in 2020, According to Gartner

Anu Passary:

By 2020, vehicles with some form of wireless network connection capabilities will rule the roads, according to new research from Gartner.
 Gartner’s report “Predicts 2015: The Internet of Things” forecast that in the next five years, nearly one in five cars worldwide will have wireless Internet capabilities, which amounts to over 250 million connected cars.
 The research firm pointed out that connected cars or smart cars are poised to play a pivotal role in the Internet of Things (IoT). The firm also predicted that 4.9 billion “connected things” will be deployed in 2015, which is an increase of 30 percent from 2014. This number is expected to grow further and will touch 25 billion in the next five years.
 “The connected car is already a reality, and in-vehicle wireless connectivity is rapidly expanding from luxury models and premium brands, to high-volume midmarket models,” noted James F. Hines, research director at Gartner.

Big Brother Is Watching You Run Errands

Edward Niedermeyer:

According to the report, in addition to installing cameras on public roads, the Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration taps into a massive and growing network of license plate scanners operated by various local law enforcement agencies. These plate reading programs, helped by grants from the Department of Homeland Security, are now operated by as many as 70 percent of local police departments, which see them as a “force multiplier” for overworked beat cops. With the ability to automatically scan more than 100,000 vehicles per day at an ever-lower cost, police say the devices simply make officers more efficient at their jobs.
 That same efficiency argument is also responsible for proliferating license plate scanners in the private sector, where they are largely used for debt collection. As the Boston Globe reported, a nationwide network of unmarked cars armed with automated plate readers hoovers up data from cars in order to find cars that are stolen or in default, making a once-painstaking process as easy as making the morning commute. These private firms assert that collecting the data is covered by the First Amendment, even when they make their data pools available to law enforcement agencies. And given the growing importance of auto credit expansion to car sales, it seems that these private plate scanners have come to play a critical role in the new economy — and they are unlikely to simply disappear due to privacy concerns.

Volkswagens gefährliche Nähe zu Chinas Politbüro (Volkswagen & China’s Politburo “Dangerously Close”)

Von Nikolaus Doll und Tobias Kaiser:

Kein Autohersteller profitiert mehr vom Wachstum Chinas als VW. Doch auch kein Konzern ist so abhängig vom Wohlwollen der politischen Kaste. Die Wolfsburger nehmen sogar Terrorgefahren in Kauf.
 Sie stehen in Bahnhöfen und vor den Hotels, an den Eingängen von Basaren und Supermärkten: schwarz uniformierte Spezialkräfte mit Schlagstöcken, Schutzschilden und automatischen Waffen. Wer in die chinesische Millionenstadt Ürümqi reist, sieht die Sicherheitskräfte bereits an den Gepäckbändern des Airports, später an den Panzersperren in der City oder in Patrouillenfahrzeugen.
 Als an einer Ecke zwei Autos zusammenstoßen, rücken sofort vier schwer bewaffnete Männer auf die Unfallstelle zu und sperren sie großräumig ab. Der Crash könnte schließlich Teil eines Terroranschlags sein.

Google Translate.

No car manufacturer benefits more from the growth of China as a VW. However, no group is so dependent on the goodwill of the political caste. The Wolfsburg take even terror threats in purchasing.
 You stand in front of the train stations and hotels, to the inputs of bazaars and supermarkets: black uniformed special forces with batons, shields and automatic weapons. If you’re traveling in the Chinese metropolis Urumqi, the security forces can already see on the baggage carousels of the airport, and later at the tank traps in the city or in patrol vehicles.

​Google Doesn’t Think The DMV Is Capable Of Regulating Self-Driving Cars

Damon Lavrinc:

Governments aren’t particularly adept at grasping new technology, and Google made that point crystal clear at a meeting this week in California where the safety and regulation of self-driving cars were debated.
 Google joined the DMV and about 100 representatives from car manufacturers and safety groups, as well as lobbyists and the public, in the first of two workshops to discuss the state’s process of assessing the safety of autonomous cars. Specifically, they’re trying to figure out how the DMV would test self-driving vehicles for certification in the state – a deadline the DMV already blew earlier this year – and something that Bryan Salesky, Google’s program manager for self-driving cars, thinks is beyond the state’s abilities.

Spending billions but coming up short on the trust scale

Krishnan M. Anantharaman:

Auto dealers are pillars of their communities. They sponsor Little League teams. They fund scholarships for disadvantaged children. They donate vehicles to first responders. They pay their taxes and fly big flags.
 So why do so many consumers drive out of dealerships feeling uneasy — even if they got the car they wanted at roughly the price they wanted? What explains the fact that year after year, Gallup polling consistently finds car salespeople near the bottom among professions when it comes to honesty and ethical standards, narrowly ahead of members of Congress?
 As dealers this weekend rightfully celebrate their contributions to the economy and the free-enterprise system, the polling numbers should serve as a sobering reminder of what they have yet to accomplish.
 In 1977, Gallup found that only 8 percent of respondents rated car salespeople “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethics. In the latest survey, about a month ago, that number was — wait for it — 8 percent. Meanwhile, a full 45 percent in the latest poll rated them low or very low, not much better than the 47 percent in 1977.

Investment Riches Built on Subprime Auto Loans to Poor

Michael Corkery & Jessica Greenberg:

The loans were for used Dodges, Nissans and Chevrolets, many with tens of thousands of miles on the odometer, some more than a decade old.
 They were also one of the hottest investments around.
 So many asset managers clamored for a piece of a September bond deal made up of these loans that the size of the offering was increased 35 percent, to $1.35 billion. Even then, Santander Consumer USA received more than $1 billion in investor demand that it could not accommodate.
 Across the country, there is a booming business in lending to the working poor — those Americans with impaired credit who need cars to get to work. But this market is as much about Wall Street’s perpetual demand for high returns as it is about used cars. An influx of investor money is making more loans possible, but all that money may also be enabling excessive risk-taking that could have repercussions throughout the financial system, analysts and regulators caution.

Autobahn Drivers May Be Optional in German Pilot Project

Birgit Jennen:

That silver blur zipping along the Bavarian autobahn may eventually be piloting itself, under a project to test driverless cars on at least one stretch of Germany’s famously unrestricted highways.
 Plans call for a driverless-car pilot project on a portion of the A9 autobahn, the north-south artery that connects Munich and Berlin, Transportation Ministry spokesman Ingo Strater told reporters today. Though driverless cars have already been tested in the U.S. and Germany, the project would be one of the first to equip a stretch of public highway specifically for that purpose.
 “The German auto industry has recognized that this field is developing,” Strater said. “We want to support that.”

Ford’s future paves way for smart connected cars

Bala Subramaniam N:

How is Ford planning to bring those solutions to reality?
 We do realize Ford cannot do this alone but we believe we can play a big part in it. Based on that, we have near, mid and long term vision and plans for the realization of these solutions. In our short-term plan, we are going to continue to develop in-vehicle technologies that make the driving experience safer and reduce the effort that the driver needs. We already have technologies like automatic gearboxes, active parking, active cruise control for the same and we will continue to develop more such technologies.
 The midterm plan is to enable more information and communication between the vehicles. To make vehicles smarter, we need more information to enable smooth communication between the vehicles. If vehicles can communicate themselves, then they will be able to access many possible outcomes much before the humans and this will lead to safer environments. So in our midterm plans, we are focusing on how we are going to bring the vehicle-to-vehicle communication to those levels. Also, there needs to be collaboration between various automobile brands to realize these technologies.
 The long term includes is where we see almost everything is connected. We have already seen smarter home appliances that can connect with your smartphones. This will lead to a time where the data that such devices see, listen and sense can be stored in a cloud system and processed for a much smarter mobility solutions. And the way driverless cars will become a reality is when you have all the information needed and a way to make them communicate with one another with the information.


Honda bets on redesigned trucks

Jaclyn Trop:

The automaker plans to sell between 70,000 and 80,000 units of the new HR-V compact crossover, which launches in spring, for the first 12 months “when it’s up and running,” said Jeff Conrad, general manager of the Honda division.
 “It’s going to bring us some customers we haven’t seen in the past. Now we have an entry-level crossover,” Conrad said after Honda executives met with dealers Saturday at the NADA convention.
 Honda’s U.S. truck deliveries rose slightly in 2014 in a light-truck market that expanded 10 percent.
 Dealers anticipate that the HR-V will bolster Honda’s portfolio as “another key component in the all-wheel-drive platform,” said Jeff Hodge, president of Honda World Downey in Downey, Calif.


Car makers must prepare for the obesity epidemic

Alan Tovey:

Cars of the future may have to be redesigned to accommodate the obesity epidemic, according to the resident “futurologist” at Ford, the US car giant.
 Sheryl Connelly, who works in Ford’s “global consumer trends and futuring” department in Detroit, helping the company to adapt to big consumer changes, said the industry needs to prepare for humans growing in size.
 “We need to look at the human profile if the obesity epidemic continues. When you have these physiological changes you can get reduced response times,” she said.
 As people become larger and heavier, they could also become slower to react to situations on the road. This could mean driving becoming more dangerous unless car manufacturers adapt, possibly by introducing better safety features or speeding up the development of driverless cars that put computers in control and take the the steering wheel out of human hands.
 Mrs Connelly said that even something as mundane as reversing a car could be affected. “Obesity could mean not being able to turn your head or look over your shoulder,” she said.

China dealers fight back as stock piles up

Yang Jian:

The China Automobile Dealers Association has been a weak and loose organization. Its main job was to produce an annual list of China’s top 100 dealerships and to hold a few national conferences for dealers.
 But it is not feckless anymore.
 Over the last six months of 2014, auto sales in China slowed sharply as the nation’s economy cooled. But automakers, led by the global luxury brands, continued to burden dealers with excessive vehicle inventories.
 Dealership stockpiles in China jumped to 55 days in November, significantly above the normal range of 24 to 36 days. Inventories of imported vehicles, most of which were luxury brands, rose as high as 80 days in November, according to the association.
 But dealers cannot resolve the dispute over inventory with automakers through legal channels. China’s regulations allow automakers a free hand to decide the number and mix of vehicles that they can ship to dealers.

ChargePoint, BMW, And VW To Build East And West Coast EV Charging Network

Matt Burns:

 It will soon be easier to drive an EV along both coasts in the U.S. Thanks to a new partnership with ChargePoint, BMW and VW, hundreds of charging stations will be placed strategically along the East and West Coast of America.
 This will create a network allowing drivers to travel between Portland and San Diego and Boston and Washington D.C.

How Uber’s Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs and Reshape the Economy by 2025

Zack Kanter:

I have spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about autonomous cars, and I wanted to summarize my current thoughts and predictions. Most people – experts included – seem to think that the transition to driverless vehicles will come slowly over the coming few decades, and that large hurdles exist for widespread adoption. I believe that this is significant underestimation. Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced. They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.
 The transition is already beginning to happen. Elon Musk, Tesla Motor’s CEO, says that their 2015 models will be able to self-drive 90 percent of the time.1 And the major automakers aren’t far behind – according to Bloomberg News, GM’s 2017 models will feature “technology that takes control of steering, acceleration and braking at highway speeds of 70 miles per hour or in stop-and-go congested traffic.”2 Both Google3 and Tesla4 predict that fully-autonomous cars – what Musk describes as “true autonomous driving where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination” – will be available to the public by 2020.


MTV study finds Gen Y wants cars — and a better buying process

Jamie LaReau:

The study is in sharp contrast to other recent studies that have shown millennials, also called Gen Y, lack a passion for car ownership and prefer other forms of transportation.
 This shift in driving behaviors and attitudes towards cars is because millennials are “aging up into car ownership,” the MTV study said. Also, a stronger economy allows for more millennials to afford cars now. Millennials are people between the ages of 18 and 34.
 ‘Have drive’
 In MTV’s study, “Millennials Have Drive,” young people said they drive more miles per month than other generations today. The average number of miles driven by millennials is 934 miles a month compared with baby boomers’ 544 miles and Gen X’s 790 miles, the study said.
 The study, which included about 3,600 millennials, also found 3 in 4 agreed they would rather give up social media for a day than give up their cars. It said 72 percent would rather give up texting for a week than surrender their cars.


Has Audi reached a limit with model proliferation?

Ray Hutton:

Sometime in 2011, I asked Jeremy Hicks for the secret of his success. As the brand director of Audi UK, he had presided over a 40% increase in sales over six years. He was modest enough not to claim personal responsibility for this achievement; it was, he said, simply down to a constant flow of new models, taking Audi into parts of the market where it had never before ventured.
 In his current role as managing director of Jaguar Land Rover UK, Hicks must welcome the expansion of the JLR model range with Discovery Sport, Jaguar XE and F-Pace. There are some parallels here, as Audi came from behind in the battle of the premium brands to increase worldwide sales to 1.74 million in 2014 and move ever-closer to leader BMW (1.81 million).

Equifax Reports Auto Loan Balances Near $1 Trillion, 2015 Starting Out in the Fast Lane

PR Newswire:

According to the latest Equifax, Inc. (NYSE: EFX) National Consumer Credit Trends Report released today at the AFSA Vehicle Finance Conference and Exposition, the total balance of auto loans in December 2014 is $975 billion, representing 33.2% of total outstanding non-mortgage consumer debt. The total is an all-time high and an increase of 9.3% from same time a year ago. In addition, the total number of auto loans outstanding is nearly 71 million, a 6.5% increase from December 2013.
 Equifax Inc. logo.
 “The automobile industry had a strong year in 2014, selling more than 16.4 million new cars,” said Dennis Carlson, Deputy Chief Economist at Equifax. “Auto lending is at a record high of more than $975 billion, accounting for nearly one third of all non-mortgage consumer debt. Further, while write-offs have increased slightly from last year, delinquency rates remain near record lows. Consumers are excited about both the quality and craftsmanship of the vehicles available today as well as the great financing available. The improving economic situation has finally afforded consumers the opportunity to rekindle their love affair with the automobile.”
 “2015 is going to be an even more revved up year for the industry and for Automotive Services at Equifax, as we enter the New Year with a market full of eager-to-buy consumers and lenders who are armed with a more complete view of consumers’ financials than ever before. We’re excited to have our team of auto experts at the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) convention this week to discuss our latest solutions for the industry, and look forward to taking the successes we saw in 2014 to new heights this year.”

Autonomous Cars Are Closer Than You Think

Frederic Lardinois:

“In the next five years, you’ll see somebody introduce autonomous vehicles,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said at a small dinner for press and analysts during CES. He was quick to qualify that statement (only in very defined areas, during good weather, etc.), but that’s one of the few statements that stuck out from the fog of war that is spending a week in Vegas during CES.
 For years, self-driving cars looked like they were always at least ten years away from coming to market. If the notoriously conservative car industry thinks we are only five years away from somebody selling an autonomous car, then we’re probably even closer than they expect.
 Every major car manufacturer now makes the pilgrimage to Vegas in January to present its latest advances next to Samsung, Toshiba and hordes of Chinese iPhone case manufacturer — and if there was is one topic that they all wanted to talk about, it was its self-driving cars. And it wasn’t just the car manufacturers, it was also the chip makers. Nvidia used most of its keynote to give us a rather boring lecture on how its new chips and recent advances in deep learning will enable self-driving cars using only cameras instead of expensive sensors (most car industry experts still think other sensors are absolutely necessary, by the way). All of the products it hyped up during its time on stage were for cars and its booth featured three sports cars. Qualcomm didn’t quite focus on cars quite as much, but it announced a number of concept cars that use its chips. Intel talked about autonomy in the context of drones, but there’s no doubt it also wants to put its sensors into cars.

Wooing women behind wheel: Auto marketing still mostly old boys’ club

Drew Harwell:

Even as women rise to power at the country’s biggest automakers and help set new sales records for cars and trucks, the auto world still struggles to represent anyone other than just car guys.
 “It’s somewhat transformational. (The industry is) seeing women aren’t just getting in the side doors of these trucks. They’re buying them, driving them, using them,” said Marc Bland, a vice president for IHS Automotive, an industry research group. “The manufacturers have recognized it’s time to change some of the stereotypical approaches. But change, as always, takes time.”
 Women bought nearly 40 percent of the more than 16 million cars and trucks sold nationwide last year, up from about 36 percent five years ago, J.D. Power data show. Citing a study that said women spend $300 billion a year on vehicles and maintenance, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group of top automakers, called women “the engine of the auto economy.”

Tesla Gigafactory Permits Reveal Huge Costs: $16 Million For The Foundation Alone

Ryan Mac:

Among the more impressive figures is the fact that it will cost about $16 million to lay foundation on the site alone. Work began back on the foundation in October and is slated to be completed by April, though the permit did not say how much foundation would be laid. Tesla, in company documents, projected that the factory would be as large as 10 million square feet, consisting of buildings that are one to two stories.
 Also of note is a permit filed in December for steel work by Phoenix-based Schuff Steel Company. The first phase of structural steel construction will cost about $15 million, according to a permit that cost about $93,000. That work, which began in December, is expected to be completed by June.
 BuildZoom, which often pulls documents for home build sites, put other figures from the permits into perspective. Construction of the gigafactory will require 140,000 cubic yards of dirt to be moved for the foundation plus another 200,000 cubic yards to build a retention basin. BuildZoom estimates that moving that amount of earth would require 200 dump truck loads a day for more than four months straight.
 Tesla’s gigafactory is expected to begin production in 2017, but not be fully functional in 2020. Until then, a lot of dirt has to be pushed around.
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So You Want To Be A Mobility Company?

Edward Niedermeyer:

Over the last decade or so, it has become increasingly fashionable for automakers to explore new forms of mobility outside of the traditional automotive paradigm. Initially much of this was the industry’s usual blue-sky “concept car” dreaming, but as Google’s pushes autonomous cars towards reality and the auto industry comes to term with the digital revolution, automakers are taking the idea of rebranding as “mobility companies” more and more seriously. But, as with most high-concept “pivots” that sound good on paper, there are real questions about how exactly a car company is supposed to expand into broader areas of mobility.
 The big issues around autonomous cars –be they technological, regulatory or economic– will take some time to hash out, and it could take many product cycles before new mobility markets emerge on any kind of broad scale. But in the meantime, diversifying from automobiles to other forms of mobility may provide surprising new opportunities.
 Millions of people around the world face mobility challenges of an overwhelming variety, ranging from blindness and paralysis to myriad developmental, congenital and age-related conditions. And most of these struggles for basic mobility are invisible to society, happening as they do to its most invisible members. Addressing this need may not be a big business opportunity for automakers in the short term, but it could help the industry grab back a piece of its futurist halo from Silicon Valley. If Tesla’s astonishing rise proves anything, it’s that there’s a deep public desire to see automakers taking big risks to make the world a better place.

BMW sounds alarm over tech companies seeking connected car data

Andy Sharman:

Technology companies and advertisers are putting pressure on carmakers to pass on data collected by connected cars, BMW has warned, highlighting the concerns the automotive industry faces as it treads a fine line between performance and privacy.
 Ian Robertson, the German manufacturer’s board member for sales and marketing, said that every car rolling off its production lines had a wireless network that could yield information about location, speed, acceleration and even the occupants of the car.
 “There’s plenty of people out there saying: ‘give us all the data you’ve got and we can tell you what we can do with it’,” he told the Financial Times on the sidelines of the Detroit motor show, adding that this included “Silicon Valley” companies, as well as advertising groups. “And we’re saying: ‘No thank you’.”

Uber Offers Trip Data to Cities, Starting With Boston

Douglas Macmillan:

For the first time, Uber is giving government officials a look inside its rich trove of transportation data.
 The company said Tuesday it will provide the city of Boston with anonymized information about rides on the car-hailing service in the hopes it will help ease traffic congestion and lead to smarter city planning.
 Uber will give Boston officials a quarterly report with trip logs showing the date and time each ride began and ended, the distance traveled and the zip codes where people were picked up and dropped off. None of the data will contain the names of passengers or their specific locations, the company said.
 Earlier this month, Massachusetts established new rules which officially recognized Uber and other ridesharing services as official modes of transportation.
 The data partnership marks the first time Uber has opened up its transportation database, one of the most valuable assets for a company that owns no cars and employs no drivers. In exchange for helping regulators track user data, the company hopes to build political clout and make a stronger case for its legitimacy in many places where its legal status is in doubt.
 Uber is currently in talks to share data reports with New York City, and is open to discussing similar arrangements anywhere it operates in the U.S., said Justin Kintz, head of policy for North America.

Toyota welcomes Buffett to car business with Hollywood burgers

Craig Trudell:

When billionaire investor Warren Buffett became the newest entrant in the auto-dealership business last year, Toyota Motor Corp. rolled out the red carpet.
 The world’s largest carmaker welcomed Buffett within weeks after his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. agreed to acquire Van Tuyl Group, the largest closely held U.S. auto dealer, said Bob Carter, senior vice president of Toyota’s U.S. operations. Carter set up a meeting for Buffett with President Akio Toyoda while his boss was in Los Angeles for a Lexus dealer meeting at the Dolby Theatre, which hosts the Academy Awards.
 Carter managed to swing a meeting of his own with the famed investor.

Chemists one step closer to new generation of electric car battery


“This is a major step forward and brings the lithim-sulphur battery one step closer to reality,” said Nazar, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials and was named a Highly Cited Researcher by Thomson Reuters.
 Nazar’s group is best known for their 2009 Nature Materials paper demonstrating the feasibility of a Li-S battery using nanomaterials. In theory, sulphur can provide a competitive cathode material to lithium cobalt oxide in current lithium-ion cells. Sulphur as a battery material is extremely abundant, relatively light, and very cheap.
 Unfortunately, the sulphur cathode exhausts itself after only a few cycles because the sulphur dissolves into the electrolyte solution as it’s reduced by incoming electrons to form polysulphides.
 Nazar’s group originally thought that porous carbons or graphenes could stabilize the polysulphides by physically trapping them. But in an unexpected twist, they discovered metal oxides could be the key. Their initial work on a metallic titanium oxide was published earlier in August in Nature Communications.

Suppliers resist ceding controls in the cockpit to Apple and Google

David Sedgwick and Gabe Nelson:

Apple and Google are slowly but surely securing a niche in the cockpit for their smartphone-style apps and interfaces. But most automakers and traditional suppliers aren’t content to let mobile-phone technology dictate how drivers interact with their vehicles.
 That’s a task for companies that better understand the demands on a driver’s attention, they say.
 Take, for example, a driver traveling in heavy traffic and swerving to avoid a collision on an icy road. How important would it be at the moment for him to be alerted to an incoming phone call or to get an instant Facebook notification?
 Such questions have key suppliers such as Bosch, Panasonic and Harman working on cockpit features that control which infotainment functions the driver can see or use, depending on conditions. The idea is not to freeze out all smartphone apps but to provide a safer way to use them, says Juergen Peters, president of North American car multimedia at Robert Bosch GmbH.

This is not an easy problem to solve. But the state cannot just throw up its hands. It has a moral obligation to ensure that as many children as possible escape failing schools for ones that give them a fighting chance. And history has shown that districts can dramatically improve educational opportunities for minority children — and reduce racial isolation — with voluntary transfer plans and especially with high-quality magnet schools that attract middle-class families. This problem is especially urgent in New York’s second-largest city, Buffalo, where federal civil rights officials are enforcing an agreement intended to expand minority access to the better schools in a dysfunctional system, which has suffered from years of abysmal leadership and middle-class flight. Today nearly half the city’s public schools either have low graduation rates or rank in the bottom 5 percent of state schools in math and English.

Joseph Stromberg:

The Autobahn 7, Germany’s longest highway, runs straight through Hamburg. Over the years, it’s grown more and more congested, now carrying about 152,000 cars and trucks per day.
 To deal with the increasing traffic, the city is turning to a pretty conventional solution: widening virtually the entire stretch of the highway that runs through the city.
 But to deal with the noise — and the way that the highway has severed neighborhoods that were connected before it was built in the 1980s — Fast Company reports that the city has come to a pretty interesting solution: they’re burying a few miles of the highway and covering it with parks, community gardens, and housing development.

Google to start selling auto insurance in the U.S., analyst says

Dado Ruvic:

The search giant is planning soon to pilot its new Google Compare auto insurance comparison shopping site, wrote Forrester analyst Ellen Carney in a note. According to Carney, the company has been pitching the service to insurance providers for more than two years.
 Google, which currently offers a service in the UK for users to compare over 125 auto insurance options, takes a cut when a user buys insurance online or by phone.
 Industry experts say the Mountain View-based company has increasingly been exploring online searches tailored toward specific industries or markets. Google already offers its users a site to compare travel destinations and find the cheapest flight fares, for instance.

Perhaps building relationships with insurance companies for other purposes.

Ford Tries to Shut Down Independent Repair Tool with Copyright

Kit Walsh:

At EFF, we think people ought to be able to understand how their devices work and repair them without asking permission of the manufacturer. We also think independent repair companies should to be able to compete with manufacturers in the aftermarket. Simply put, you should be able to fix your stuff or choose someone you trust to do it for you.
 The Ford Motor Company, however, takes a different view. It recently sued Autel, a manufacturer of third-party diagnostics for automobiles, for creating a diagnostic tool that includes a list of Ford car parts and their specifications. Ford claims that it owns a copyright on this list of parts, the “FFData file,” and thus can keep competitors from including it in their diagnostic tools. It also claims that Autel violated the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by writing a program to defeat the “encryption technology and obfuscation” that Ford used to make the file difficult to read.
 We’re pretty skeptical of Ford’s claims. Mere facts and data cannot be copyrighted, but sometimes a “compilation” of data can be—if the selection and arrangement are sufficiently creative. It seems unlikely that Ford broke new creative ground when deciding which parts to include in the database and the order in which they would appear. Ford does allege that it included fictitious part descriptions in the database, but that’s probably not enough to pass muster. After all, similar fictions were included in the phonebook that the Supreme Court found to lack originality in the leading case defining the limits of copyrightability for compilations, Feist v. Rural. Feist, the Supreme Court explained that compiling the names, towns, and phone numbers of all of a company’s telephone subscribers in alphabetical order was not sufficiently original for the compilation to be copyrighted. It explained that alphabetical ordering was “commonplace,” and that the “selection” of all current subscribers and basic information about them was not a creative decision.

Google and the Self-Driving Delusion

Holman Jenkins:

In Asia, many people’s first experience of a telephone is a smartphone. Many will never know a landline. Asia’s booming airlines, likewise, have mostly got their start since flying stopped being about aerodynamics and became about monitoring computer systems. Asia’s pilots come up in classrooms and simulators, not hand-flying Piper Cubs or rudimentary military trainers.
 Nobody yet knows what caused the Dec. 28 AirAsia crash off the coast of Borneo, but the airplane appears to have gotten badly out of shape while the crew was maneuvering in or around a thunderstorm. And recall the South Korean airliner that, in perfect weather, crashed short of a San Francisco runway in 2013 because the crew had to land the plane by hand. A former Delta Air Lines expert told the Associated Press this week: “In Asia, it’s very normal to rely, in my view, excessively on automation.”

Diesel power is on a downward slope

Hilton Holloway:

For diesel, 2014 wasn’t the best of years. This fuel has had a bull run since the late 1990s, when the first generation of direct-injection turbocharged engines began appearing.
 I have fond memories of spending the 1998 Christmas holidays in a 150bhp Mk4 Volkswagen Golf TDI. On Boxing Day that year, I drove from Hertfordshire to Norfolk in convoy with a first-generation Audi S4 Avant. On the slingshot roundabouts of the A11, the mighty turbocharged petrol Audi had some trouble keeping up with the exit speed of the diminutive Golf.
 This VW seemed to be the future: light on its feet, well packaged and with the kind of mid-range acceleration that left most regular ‘performance’ cars struggling.Indeed, such was the Golf’s mountainous torque curve that it was not beyond losing traction in third gear.

Discussed in Asymcar 20.

GM will beam donut discounts directly to drivers

CNN Money:

General Motors plans to start offering discounts to drivers using OnStar, a perk that will include offers at Dunkin’ Donuts and Priceline.com.
 The service — dubbed “AtYourService” — will be offered to OnStar users in the U.S. and Canada starting in early 2015. OnStar, GM’s in-car information service, provides navigation tools and other services.
 The discounts will be offered when users ask for directions to a participating retailer. Search for the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, and you might get a deal on a coffee or snack.

Uber breaking the rules, says Taiwan’s transportation ministry

Want China Times:

Taxi app Uber has been breaking the rules and fooling consumers with deceptive arguments, Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications said Monday after Uber launched a Facebook campaign to drum up commuter support.
 The ministry said Uber’s operations are illegal because the company is registered locally as an information service rather than as a transportation business.
 It also said that Uber has recruited drivers who do not have commercial driver’s licenses, which are required for taxi drivers. While the company promised the ministry it would follow existing rules, it did not change the way it ran its business, said transportation official Hu Ti-chi.
 Hu said the ministry has suggested that Uber obtain the necessary licenses or work with a partner in the sector, but Uber did not take its advice.
 Uber is also being disingenuous when it accuses the government of preventing the creation of job opportunities by cracking down on Uber’s operations, the government said, because the US-based company itself is operating illegally.


Uber to provide data to Portland

Aaron Mesh:

Uber and its biggest competitor, Lyft, can also operate. But Hales says the companies will be asked to supply the city with data on where they’re picking up and dropping off passengers, and how much they’re charging.
 “People tell us anecdotes about waiting two hours for a cab,” Hales says. “Facts will be friendly, and data will be helpful.”
 But that’s the real test for Hales’ deal: Will Uber share information about how it makes its money?
 Big data is what makes sharing-economy companies powerful, and they loathe giving it up. Controlling information about where people are summoning rides, or where they want to rent houses, is the basis of their business model. City Hall is currently fighting Airbnb over supplying the addresses of its hosts, most of whom have so far refused to undergo safety inspections.
 Steger says Uber is willing to give Portland information—to a point. “We take our customer privacy and our driver privacy very, very seriously,” she says.
 Chester, of the Center for Digital Democracy, is skeptical Uber will give the city the data that really matters.