Toyota Unintended Acceleration and the Big Bowl of “Spaghetti” Code


Last month, Toyota hastily settled an Unintended Acceleration lawsuit – hours after an Oklahoma jury determined that the automaker acted with “reckless disregard,” and delivered a $3 million verdict to the plaintiffs – but before the jury could determine punitive damages.
 What did the jury hear that constituted such a gross neglect of Toyota’s due care obligations? The testimony of two plaintiff’s experts in software design and the design process gives some eye-popping clues. After reviewing Toyota’s software engineering process and the source code for the 2005 Toyota Camry, both concluded that the system was defective and dangerous, riddled with bugs and gaps in its failsafes that led to the root cause of the crash.
 Bookout and Schwarz v. Toyota emanated from a September 2007 UA event that caused a fatal crash. Jean Bookout and her friend and passenger Barbara Schwarz were exiting Interstate Highway 69 in Oklahoma, when she lost throttle control of her 2005 Camry. When the service brakes would not stop her speeding sedan, she threw the parking brake, leaving a 150-foot skid mark from right rear tire, and a 25-foot skid mark from the left. The Camry, however, continued speeding down the ramp and across the road at the bottom, crashing into an embankment. Schwarz died of her injuries; Bookout spent five months recovering from head and back injuries.

GM says li-ion battery cost per kWh already down to $145

Danny King:

GM recently showed a slide that said that its lithium-ion battery costs are down to about $145 per kilowatt hour, Hybrid Cars says, citing comments General Motors made at its Global Business Conference in Michigan. The company also showed that these costs may drop to $100/kWh by 2021. Heady stuff considering that Tesla Motors has said it’d hit those cost levels in 2020, and Tesla is not outsourcing the job like GM is (LG Chem makes the cells for the 2015 Spark EV and the Chevy Volts) . General Motors representatives confirmed to Autoblog that GM executive Mark Reuss presented the battery-cost estimate slide in a presentation at the conference.

Soon, Switzerland’s self driving bus pilot

Charlie Sorrel:

Excellent chocolate, accurate clocks, a criminal-friendly banking system. These are all things Switzerland is famous for. Now it might soon add driverless buses to the list: The Swiss city of Sion will begin a two-year trial of two autonomous buses beginning in spring 2016.
 The buses come from startup BestMile and will be operated by SwissPost transport subsidiary Car Postal. The company’s name hints at the purpose for these small, nine-person shuttles. They are designed to cover the “last mile,” the gap between a regular bus or metro stop and the passenger’s own front door.

Connected Cars

L2 Inc:

With consumers expecting more from their cars, Auto brands are trying to overcome the obstacles to innovation with better smartphone integration. Brands must identify the aspects of the connected car experience that they can own and develop partnerships for digital services that are best provided by others.

Six superstars ponder the future of an ‘irrational’ auto industry


ionne says the auto industry is broken. Is he right or was he simply putting FCA up for sale? We asked six superstar industry thinkers to discuss the matter in detail: Bo Andersson, Arndt Ellinghorst, John Krafcik, Bob Lutz, Tim Manganello and Andy Palmer. They all see an industry with huge challenges.

Self-Driving Cars: A Coming Congestion Disaster?

Jarret Walker:

 We’re starting to see professional reports echoing long-standing concerns about how driverless cars will affect our cities. This new one from KPMG in particular, is getting a lot of press. It’s actually a focus group about the transport desires of different generations, but it confirms the thought experiments that many of us have already been laying out for a while.
 Much depends on whether these cars are owned or spontaneously hired like taxis. A taxi model is definitely better in its congestion impacts, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. The ownership model is closer to the status quo, and the status quo always has enormous power. Driverless taxis will not always be available on demand, especially in suburban and rural areas, so a legitimate fear of being stranded will make people in those areas prefer the security of having a car just for them. And of course, that’s just the effect of rational concerns about relying on taxis. Less rational desires for car ownership, as an expression of identity or symbol of liberty, will also not vanish overnight.
 This leads to a nightmare scenario that University of Washington’s Mark Hollenbeck laid out in our recent Seattle Times panel. Paraphrasing Mark: A suburban father rides his driverless car to work, maybe dropping his daughter off a at school. But rather than park the car downtown, he simply tells it to drive back home to his house in the suburbs. During the day, it runs some other errands for his family. At 3 pm, it goes to the school to bring his daughter home or chauffeur her to after-school activities. Then it’s time for it to drive back into the city to pick up Dad from work. But then, on a lark, Dad decides to go shopping at a downtown department store after work, so he tells his car to just circle the block for an hour while he shops, before finally hailing it to go home.

Why focus should be on mass transit instead of tolls to relieve traffic congestion, part one

exonomic Justice:

It’s deja vu all over again. By extolling the virtues of variable rate tolls on all highways and bridges leading into central business districts, the recent paper by Montréal’s latest conservative think tank, the Canadian Ecofiscal Commission, mimics the 2008 proposal by the even more conservative Montréal Economic Institute.
 Then, as now, the proposal was dead on arrival. The recently elected prime minister campaigned on a promise to scrap his predecessor’s toll plan for the new Champlain Bridge in Montréal. Québec’s Transport Minister, also the minister responsible for the Montréal region, immediately scuttled the CEC proposal. In doing so, he succinctly made a point that all such proposals glance over: “What are we offering as an alternative?”

Why driving in the US is making a big comeback

Brad Plumer:

Remember peak car? Over the past five years, various analysts and writers have been wondering whether driving in the United States might finally be going out of style. Their reasons: Overall road travel has been dropping since 2008. And there was at least anecdotal evidence that younger Americans preferred city life to suburban sprawl.
 Well… it’s time to revise those think pieces. This year, Americans are driving more than they ever have before. Peak car isn’t upon us just yet.

Renault Kwid bookings cross 70,000 in India: Report

Greeshma m:

Kwid, the entry level small car, is turning out to be a runway success for French auto maker Renault, at least that is what the emerging reports suggest. Renault Kwid, which started its India journey in September this year, has reportedly raked in about 70,000 bookings in the country so far.
 The Kwid, the budget SUV hatchback that packs several features has been priced starting at Rs 2.56 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). Needless to say, the pricing is definitely one of the reasons that made the new Kwid popular among Indians. The company had earlier confirmed that the bookings of Kwid crossed 50,000.

Driverless Cars Could Spell the end of domestic flights


Disrupt the airline and hotel industries within 20 years as people sleep in their vehicles on the road, according to a senior strategist at Audi.
 Short-haul travel will be transformed and the hassle of getting to and from airports eliminated, said Sven Schuwirth, vice president of brand strategy and digital business at the German car brand.
 Business travellers will be able to avoid taking domestic flights to meetings and will sleep and work in their cars en route instead of checking into city-centre hotels, he said.
 “In the future you will not need a business hotel or a domestic flight,” Schuwirth told Dezeen. “We can disrupt the entire business of domestic flights.”

Asymcar 26 discussed this topic.

A Car Dealers Won’t Sell: It’s Electric

Car dealers have their way with Congress

David Dayen:

 With a crush of must-pass bills coming at the end of the year, it’s a lobbyist feeding frenzy on Capitol Hill. The prize: a rider tacked onto one of those bills that’s worth big bucks.
 And the biggest winner so far is not the industry you’d normally think of as the most powerful in Washington — not banking, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, or telecommunications. Arguably the most successful group when it comes to building bipartisan coalitions to protect their profits and avoid federal scrutiny is auto dealers.

Apple and Google to lead electric car race

Philip Elmer Dewitt:

In a note to clients Monday, Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty reports that electronic parts suppliers in Asia have seen the future and it’s not 3D virtual reality headgear—at least not for now.
 “As component suppliers look for the next growth engine,” she writes, “they’re shifting focus to autos, engaging both existing brands and potential new entrants. Suppliers see many opportunities to leverage smartphone expertise such as in cameras, sensors, batteries, and displays. Given the changing supply chain as the industry transitions to electric from transmission powered vehicles and eventually to autonomous, we see the opportunity for technology vendors, including Google GOOGL 0.36% and Apple AAPL -0.06% , to dominate. Component suppliers see new wearables categories like head mounted displays, as further away than the auto opportunity.”

“I describe our strategy as having one foot in tomorrow”

Ina Fried:

Ford CEO Mark Fields said Wednesday that he sees the potential for fully autonomous cars to be available for use on U.S. streets in four years’ time.
 Speaking to reporters in San Francisco, Fields said that Ford should be able to have vehicles that can be fully autonomous on roads where high-definition maps are available. The key, he said, is making sure that the regulatory and legal issues get worked out.
 “Technology tends to lead all that,” Fields said.
 Fields’s time frame is even more aggressive than others in the field, including Google. Google has said it hopes self-driving cars will be in the mass market in five years, although the Internet giant has yet to reveal a business plan for its own fleet. Other automakers have offered much longer timelines for self-driving vehicles.
 “I describe our strategy as having one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow,” Fields said. “We are becoming a mobility company and an auto company.”

Leaked Lyft Financials Show the Struggles of Being No. 2 Behind Uber

Eric Newcomer and Alex Barinka:

year, the ride-sharing company generated less revenue, lost more money, and added fewer customers than projected in February.
 Ride-sharing pioneer Lyft is heading back to the fundraising till, but its numbers may not look that rosy to investors. The company lost $127 million in the first half of 2015 on $46.7 million in revenue, according to private fundraising documents obtained by Bloomberg.

Analyzing 1.1 Billion NYC Taxi and Uber Trips, with a Vengeance

Todd Schneider:

The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission has released a staggeringly detailed historical dataset covering over 1.1 billion individual taxi trips in the city from January 2009 through June 2015. Taken as a whole, the detailed trip-level data is more than just a vast list of taxi pickup and drop off coordinates: it’s a story of New York. How bad is the rush hour traffic from Midtown to JFK? Where does the Bridge and Tunnel crowd hang out on Saturday nights? What time do investment bankers get to work? How has Uber changed the landscape for taxis? And could Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson have made it from 72nd and Broadway to Wall Street in less than 30 minutes? The dataset addresses all of these questions and many more.

Microsoft, Volvo Car to Bring Augmented Reality Into Showrooms

Dina Bass:

Would you test drive a car using a hologram?
 Microsoft Corp. and Volvo Car Group, owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., are working together to bring Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality goggles to Volvo showrooms next year to spruce up safety-feature demonstrations, car customization — and yes, test drives.

Lessons Learned from the BMW i3

YouTube video. Via Steve Crandall.
 The BMW i3 has been much discussed on Asymcar.

The Number of Miles Cars Travel is About to Explode

Kirsten Korosec:

Some forecasters have predicted that vehicles sales will fall in the future because urban-living millennials—and more importantly, the generation that follows them—don’t value car ownership. Instead, they younger generation will increasingly use alternatives like Uber, Lyft, and Daimler’s car-sharing service Car2go.
 The advisory arm of KPMG says this shift will cause an interesting side effect—and not the death of automakers as some predict. While car ownership—and in turn, sales may decline—the number of total annual vehicle miles driven will soar.
 U.S. cars will travel one trillion additional miles annually by 2050, or 35% more than the roughly 2 trillion miles traveled in 2015, according to KPMG. The company’s research, which consisted of consumer focus groups in Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, found that millennials and “baby boomers plus,” who range in age from 45 to 75, will be largely responsible for the increased driving.
 “I’m not sure people understand the enormity of the change, nor are we ready for it,” says Gary Silberg, national automotive leader for KPMG. In KPMG’s view, this is a huge opportunity for the automotive industry. It will also require a business model that generates profits through tailored premium experiences inside a vehicle. Each age demographic will have their own view of what premium experiences mean. For instance, millennials might pay for a rolling office or a moving entertainment center, the report suggests.
 What’s striking about KPMG’s projections is that they’re based on increased driving by the two ends of the consumer age spectrum: the very young and old. The folks in the middle, people who represent the bulk of drivers, weren’t included in the study, Silberg told a crowd at the Los Angeles Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo.

Via Eric.

The Dream Life of Driverless Cars

Geoff Manaugh:

brisk afternoon in October, an oddly-­equipped Honda CR-V inched through London traffic. At the wheel was Matthew Shaw, a 32-year-old architectural designer; with him was a fellow designer, William Trossell, 30, and a small team of laser-­scanner operators. All were skilled in their technical fields, but their goal was art. What they hoped to scan was not just the shape of the city streets but the inner life of the autonomous cars that may soon come to dominate them.

Auto Industry Won’t Create The Future

David Pakman:

As every industry becomes a technology industry, its pace of innovation must accelerate. Those of us used to Moore’s Law as the single most-defining characteristic of the information age know that rapid innovation is a constant. If you don’t quickly innovate, your competitors will, and you will get lapped in one tech cycle. Cultures of rapid innovation, while common in technology, are less common in industrial age companies. Think about the length of product cycles in the car industry—new car models take three to five years to develop and launch and then sit stagnant for six years in the market, devoid of meaningful improvement or new innovation. The only way to get new features? Buy a new car.

The promise and peril of members only unions

Shaun Richman:

Unions have taken some hard hits in recent years, with even greater existential threats on the horizon. Labor must consider alternative forms of organization if they want to survive. But unions should watch out for unintended consequences of those new forms of organizing.
 In their report for the Century Foundation, Moshe Marvit and Leigh Anne Schriever highlight case studies in “members-only” organizing, where unions cannot reach majority status for legal certification but maintain a workplace organization made up of a minority of workers that presses issue campaigns against the boss. Charles J. Morris, in his 2005 book The Blue Eagle at Work, reminds us that in its first few years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) used to certify minority unions as the bargaining agent for that union’s members only, and that such a mechanism still exists (although the modern Board has dodged efforts to get a ruling to respond to Morris’ assertion). Some unions in “right to work” states are contemplating “members-only” certifications as a solution to the “free rider” problem, that workers can choose to opt out of joining (and paying dues to) a union, but the union is still legally compelled to represent them. “You want the contract? Join the union,” goes the simplistic (albeit attractive) logic.

Ford is first to test self-driving cars at fake Michigan city

Marco Della Cava:

Ford shifts its autonomous car program into a higher gear Friday, announcing it will become the first automaker to test its self-driving cars at a new Michigan compound.
 While the Detroit manufacturer has been working on both connected- and autonomous-car technologies for a decade, the new testing program at Mcity – a 32-acre faux metropolis in Ann Arbor, Mich. – reflects Ford’s recent move to upgrade its self-driving efforts from pure research to advanced engineering.

Via Bertel Schmitt.

TomTom to Provide Data for Uber Driver App


TomTom’s advanced map-making technology, combined with its world class traffic information, will ensure Uber has a seamless navigation experience, accurate arrival times and efficient journeys in more than 300 cities around the world.

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.

Goodbye Gasoline, Hello Chinese Battery Power

David Fickling:

Remember carburetors? They used to be a crucial part of pretty much every car engine. Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Chuck Berry sang about them. But look under the hood of your car and, unless it’s a vintage model or you’re living in a developing country, you won’t find one. Tougher fuel emissions standards have caused them to be supplanted by fuel injection, a technology which until the 1980s was considered too costly for widespread use outside of performance cars.
 There’s a lesson in that for the future of automobiles. We like to think the car industry is a free market where demand is driven purely by swings in consumer preference, but in practice, government regulations have shaped investment decisions for decades, and will continue to do so. Why is it that diesel cars make up half of Europe’s auto market and barely one percent in the U.S.? As Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky has pointed out, it’s largely a result of European Union rules favoring diesel as a way of reducing CO2 emissions.

Via Sanat Patel.

The Future of Automotive Design

Soren Pererson:

Car styling is the pinnacle in the world of design and the epicenter of this creative community is in Southern California. Most auto manufacturers have a studio located here and continue work on advanced and next generation vehicles. When one sees BMWs, Mercedes or Hondas on the road, chances are they were originally dreamed up in sunny Southern California.

Volkswagen’s emissions-test trickery may not be illegal in Europe

Danny Hakim & Claire Barthélemy:

Four years ago, European auto regulators identified and debated a loophole in their pollution testing rules that could render vehicle emissions tests ineffectual, but it was ultimately left in place, internal documents show.
 The loophole lets carmakers change the performance settings of their engines before a pollution test. “A manufacturer could specify a special setting that is not normally used for everyday driving,” British regulators warned, according to minutes of a 2011 meeting in Geneva of officials across the region.
 The debate throws new light on Volkswagen’s costly emissions cheating — particularly the question of whether Volkswagen violated European testing rules.

Capacity management in the automotive industry

Sven Dharmani, Dheera Anand and Dr. Mehmet Demirci:

Operating in the automotive industry has always been challenging� Long and complex supply chains, unpredictable demand patterns, changing regulations — not to mention planning-to-production processes that can take up to five years — have all caused headaches for car manufacturers, or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), for many years�
The global recession in 2008 and 2009 and the lasting damage it caused to the global economy have made things even harder� Collapsing demand and many other factors have squeezed the car industry and hit suppliers particularly hard�
Now, demand is picking up, and OEMs are responding by increasing their production and parts orders to suppliers� But the suppliers are still being cautious after the recession and have neither the capacity nor the capital expenditure plans necessary to deal with the increased demand�
In this new environment, the constraints on the automotive supply chain are even more prominent, and OEMs are struggling to manage these problems as demand levels rise�
In today’s globalized market, OEMs are challenged to forecast demand and their parts orders to suppliers with accuracy� With planning and development lead times of four or five years, changes in demand are inevitable� But the OEMs also struggle to manage these changes efficiently� The complexity of automotive supply chains and the lack of spare capacity at the suppliers make this even harder�

via Edward Niedermeyer.

Shell and Gordon Murray reveal details of 100mpg city car

Matt Burt:

giant Shell has revealed further details of the city car concept it has built in conjunction with Gordon Murray and former Honda F1 engine designer Osamu Goto. The three-seat vehicle is expected to weigh less than 600kg and offer fuel economy of more than 100mpg when measured on the official European cycle.
 Project M, as the concept is known, is a 1+2 car design that aims to inspire fresh ideas on simple global cars for congested urban areas. The car has its roots in Murray’s new-era T25 urban car, first revealed in 2010, which underwent a “complete rethink from the ground up” for this new project with Shell and Goto’s Geo Technology engine laboratory.
 The concept represents a fightback for fossil fuel vehicles in an era that has tended to favour hybrids and electric cars. The partners describe it as “an ultra-compact, efficient car for city use, based around the internal combustion engine”.

Uncheatable real world emissions testing was torpedoed by EPA and industry

Daniel Stern:

Vehicle emissions regulation is one of the greatest success stories ever to come out of activities involving engineers and governments: the air is vastly cleaner than it was in the bad old days, and it keeps getting cleaner even though many more people are driving many more cars much longer distances. Dieselgate has brought up some seldom-discussed topics such as how—or whether it’s even possible—to adequately and simultaneously control locally-relevant emissions (HC, CO, NOx, particulates) and fuel consumption and its resultant globally-relevant CO2 emissions. That overspanning discussion, though, is hobbled by a lack of good data on exactly what’s coming out of all those tailpipes. It’s not that the data would be hard to come by. For decades, there has been technology to produce mountains of it. The tech has been buried by the EPA and big industry.


D/D advisors:

Last week I saw an interesting post on Venture Beat about Acer Launching an Electric All-Terrain Vehicle. This struck a chord because Taiwan-based Acer is a manufacturer of PCs and other consumer electronics (CE) devices. Acer is one of the most prominent companies in Taiwan’s CE complex, which builds almost all of our consumer gadgets. They are closely tied to some of the industry’s most important ODMs, component vendors and contract manufacturers. It is not that surprising to see a consumer electronics giant diversify into higher priced devices as they move up the value chain. However, if you don’t look at Acer as an device maker, but instead view them as a flagship of the Taiwanese electronics industry, the announcement has broader implications.

Tesla Lining Up Broadside Attack On Auto Industry Lobbying

clean technica:

Tesla launched an assault on the entrenched auto industry by going before the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last week with data showing that the auto industry has been actively and successfully lobbying against fuel efficiency improvements that the state has been working towards for the last 20 years (h/t electrek).
 Specifically, Tesla’s Vice President of Business Development Diarmuid O’Connell shared that lobbying has fundamentally set the state back in achieving its air pollution reduction goals — which is essentially the charter of CARB. Similarly, and more specifically to the point of Tesla being at a CARB meeting in the first place, he argued that the same type of lobbying was taking place against zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) – including Teslas.

Who is Jia Yueting, the Chinese billionaire linked to Faraday?

Julie Makinen:

 He emulates Steve Jobs’ fashion sense but loves to brag that his company has already surpassed Apple in areas including design, craftsmanship, hardware and business models.
 His company — which is involved in film production, “smart” TVs, video streaming, mobile phones, bicycles and more — has been called the “Netflix of China.”
 Last year, he put Tesla in his crosshairs.
 See the most-read stories this hour >>
 “We will build the best electric cars to solve the problems of air pollution and traffic jams in China,” Jia Yueting wrote on his Chinese microblog.

HAAS and the future of TSLA…

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Part of what makes it fun to work at Social Capital is the amount of time we take to think through the broad continuum of technology. The impacts of technology don’t stop after a Series A or a Growth round. Disruption, impact and getting to scale happen at all parts of the technological lifecycle — spanning a company’s existence as both private and public entities.
 In thinking through the broad impacts of technology, we increasingly find ourselves investing in public markets as well. I don’t view these as distinct efforts — I view them as a broad reflection of our world view on change, opportunity and leadership. In fact, many of our private companies drive a better understanding of many public companies (and vice versa).

Uber’s Drivers: Information Asymmetries and Control in Dynamic Work

Alex Rosenblat & Luke Stark

This empirical study explores labor in the on-demand economy using the rideshare service Uber as a case study. By conducting sustained monitoring of online driver forums and interviewing Uber drivers, we explore worker experiences within the on-demand economy. We argue that Uber’s digitally and algorithmically mediated system of flexible employment builds new forms of surveillance and control into the experience of using the system, which result in asymmetries around information and power for workers. In Uber’s system, algorithms, CSRs, passengers, semiautomated performance evaluations, and the rating system all act as a combined substitute for direct managerial control over drivers, but distributed responsibility for remote worker management also exacerbates power asymmetries between Uber and its drivers. Our study of the Uber driver experience points to the need for greater attention to the role of platform disintermediation in shaping power relations and communications between employers and workers.

Faraday wants you to believe it’s not a front for the Apple Car, but probably is

Bryan Clark:

Billion dollar car companies don’t pop up overnight.
 Well, except Apple Faraday.
 It plans to release its first vehicle in 2017, and claims it’ll have 15 percent more range than the Tesla Model S. Bold.
 It’s also spending some serious loot.
 According to a recent blog post, Apple Faraday plans to spend $1 billion to develop a manufacturing plant in California, Nevada, Georgia or Louisiana in order to “explore other aspects of the automotive and technology industries, including unique ownership and usage models, in-vehicle content and autonomous driving.”

Use Real Maps

Jeremy Cronon:

To avoid the high data costs and relative geographical ignorance that might accrue from prolonged use of Google Maps, I picked up a National Geographic Road Atlas for just under $20.00. The maps are not as beautiful or inviting as the OS Maps from our Coast-to-Coast trip across England, but they serve their purpose and are easily navigable. This handy atlas includes a full-page (sometimes two or three) dedicated to each state, which allows for a relatively high level of detail. Beyond the state maps, it also includes maps of major cities, national parks, and other worthwhile natural and cultural attractions. All in all, it makes for an inviting and accessible cartographic experience. It has been my copilot since day one, riding shotgun the entire way.

Via Bill Cronon.

An Electric Car Startup Nobody Has Heard of Will Spend $1 Billion on US Factory

Bob Sorokanich:

In auto industry terms, 2017 is not very far away. If GM, Toyota, or VW Group announced today that it would debut a brand-new car you haven’t heard anything about in under two years—and that it hadn’t even established the production facility to build it—that would sound a little far-fetched.
 Now imagine the company making that announcement is a brand-new startup that nobody’s heard of before, that has never produced a vehicle. And the car it’s promising is all-electric, with performance targets that out-gun Tesla’s best.

As the age of autonomous vehicles nears, why are policy wonks focused on the past?

Stephen Strauss:

In 1898, just before the dawn of the automobile age, delegates from around the world came to New York for the world’s first international urban planning conference. One topic dominated the discussion. It wasn’t the effects of the coming car revolution on urban land use, the need for gasoline stations or the implications for economic development. It was horse manure. At that time, Americans used roughly 20 million horses for transport, and cities were drowning in their muck.
 But we shouldn’t mock our forebears because our current planning debates are just as rooted in the present, just as ignorant of the oncoming avalanche of changes. As the delegates in New York obsessed over horses when they should have been thinking about cars, our policy wonks obsess over cars when they should be thinking about autonomous vehicles.

Via Bertel Schmitt.

Toyota’s new autonomous drive guru worried about “those crazy cars driven by human beings.”

Bertell Schmitt:

Autonomous driving on highways with everybody going in the same direction, and no crossing traffic is quite doable, and should be commercially available soon, Pratt said. People who think that the car business will be disrupted by self-driving Uber pods, however, will require decades of patience. Pratt sees self-driving cars in inner cities only if there are special lanes, along with guarantees that there “are no rogue human driven cars to screw things up.” These lanes would basically turn cars into “a road train.” Once robots and humans mix on the roads, matters will get hairy. Says Pratt:

Toyota Invests $1 Billion in Artificial Intelligence in U.S.

John Markoff:

Silicon Valley is diving into artificial intelligence technology, with start-ups sprouting up and Google and Facebook pouring vast sums into projects that would teach machines how to learn and make decisions. Now Toyota wants a piece of the action.
 Toyota, the Japanese auto giant, on Friday announced a five-year, $1 billion research and development effort headquartered here. As planned, the compound would be one of the largest research laboratories in Silicon Valley.

Bill Ford’s vision for a world beyond cars

Alex Davies:

Ford hesitates to offer a concrete vision for the future of transportation, but predicts a world in which all modes of moving around are connected. He imagines you’ll tell your phone where you want to go, and whether you’re looking to move quickly or cheaply. It generates a single ticket that will take you through every step of the appropriate route, a combination of car, taxi, subway, bus, Segway, bicycle, whatever.
 What he’s more worried about seeing the Ford Motor Company reduced to the role of hardware subcontractor for more innovative companies. Not that he’s pessimistic. “I am very confident that we can compete and morph into something quite different.”

Diesel Penetration


Diesel engines are an increasingly popular choice amongst consumers in Western Europe, with over half now opting for this type of powertrain.

The Consumerization of the Auto Supply Chain

Digits to Dollars:

I saw an interesting post on Venture Beat about Acer Launching an Electric All-Terrain Vehicle. This struck a chord because Taiwan-based Acer is a manufacturer of PCs and other consumer electronics (CE) devices. Acer is one of the most prominent companies in Taiwan’s CE complex, which builds almost all of our consumer gadgets. They are closely tied to some of the industry’s most important ODMs, component vendors and contract manufacturers. It is not that surprising to see a consumer electronics giant diversify into higher priced devices as they move up the value chain. However, if you don’t look at Acer as an device maker, but instead view them as a flagship of the Taiwanese electronics industry, the announcement has broader implications.
 I have been watching the automotive industry for a while. It is now the third largest consumer of semiconductors. In an earlier post about the semis industry I suggested that the industry needs to look to automobiles as a major potential growth driver in future years. I know at least one other major Asian electronics giant that has begun to invest massively in electronics for automotives. Their reasoning is very compelling. Today’s auto supply chain looks a lot like the mobile phone supply chain fifteen years ago. Back then, the suppliers to the handset OEMs were largely subsidiaries or spin-offs from the the companies that built base stations and phones themselves – Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson. Then companies like Samsung and LG, using merchant silicon from Qualcomm, entered the industry and eventually pushed the handset OEMs to move away from captive suppliers. A lot has changed since then, but handset vendors do not build their own components anymore. Of course, there are notable exceptions, but even Apple and Samsung today only design two or three of the hundreds of chips that go in their phones. Everything else is built by outside suppliers. And those outside suppliers are based in and around Taiwan’s electronics complex. You see where this post is going?

Mercedes releases a design for urban hipsters


The vehicle, which is entered via an upward-swinging door, comprises a large communal interior with one sofa-like seat fitted around half of the cabin.
 The steering wheel and driver’s seat can be stored in compartments while the vehicle is in driverless mode, creating extra space for relaxing and socialising.

Toyota bets the future car will be fuelled by hydrogen

Andy Sharman:

Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that fuel-cell cars will remain a niche proposition until at least 2025, when they will account for 0.5 per cent of global sales. IHS Automotive, a research group, predict conventional electric vehicles will be at 1.3 per cent by then.

First released in Japan in December last year, Toyota this month began handing over the Mirai to the early adopters, business leaders and public agencies in Europe that it hopes will spread the word and start building the ecosystem.

To foster the production of rival cars, the company released its fuel-cell patents in January, echoing a similar move by Tesla on electric vehicle patents.

Recent weeks have seen the likes of Porsche and Audi launch luxury challengers to Tesla’s electric cars, and many carmakers are also pushing into hydrogen technology.

“Car manufacturers are betting on red or black,” says Mr Palmer. “Almost everybody has hedged their bets.”

Hyundai’s fuel-cell car, the ix35, started production in 2013. Honda, which has been collaborating with General Motors, plans to release a competitor next year. A Nissan vehicle, jointly developed with Daimler and Ford, is expected in 2017.

Cambridge chemists make super-battery breakthrough

Clive Crookson:

A breakthrough in electrochemistry at Cambridge university could lead the way to rechargeable super-batteries that pack five times more energy into a given space than today’s best batteries, greatly extending the range of electric vehicles and potentially transforming the economics of electricity storage.

Chemistry professor Clare Grey and her team have overcome technical challenges in the development of lithium-air batteries — the only cells theoretically capable of giving electric cars the range of petrol and diesel vehicles without having to carry excessively bulky and heavy battery packs.

If the technology can be turned from a laboratory demonstrator into a commercial product, it will enable a car to drive from London to Edinburgh on a single charge, with batteries that cost and weigh one-fifth of the lithium-ion cells that power today’s electric cars.

“What we’ve achieved is a significant advance for this technology and suggests whole new areas for research,” said Prof Grey. “We haven’t solved all the problems inherent to this chemistry but our results do show routes forward.”

Startups Accelerate Efforts to Reinvent Trucking Industry

Jack Nicas & Laura Stevens:

Investors are pouring millions of dollars into startups hoping to disrupt the $700 billion trucking industry, the latest example of Silicon Valley’s efforts to upend the traditional economy.

A series of startups are vying to become an “Uber of trucking,” leveraging truck drivers’ smartphones to quickly connect them with nearby companies looking to ship goods. The upstarts aim to reinvent a fragmented U.S. trucking industry that has long relied on third-party brokers, essentially travel agents for trucking who connect truckers with customers.

Silicon Valley’s interest in trucking has accelerated in recent months. San Francisco-based Trucker Path Inc. says it is aiming to reach a $1 billion valuation next year. The latest entrant, Seattle-based Convoy, said Tuesday it had raised $2.5 million in seed funding from investors including Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, Inc. founder Marc Benioff, eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and Uber Technologies Inc. co-founder Garrett Camp.

Inside GM’s fight to get to the future first.

Keith Naughton:

“I like to drive cars,” says Mark Reuss, product development chief at General Motors, “so this is a little funny.”
 Not funny-ha-ha, Reuss clarifies, but funny-odd. He’s sitting in the driver’s seat, with his hands on his thighs and his feet on the floor of a big Cadillac that’s driving itself around a banked oval.

Why Tesla’s Autopilot and Google’s car are entirely different animals


In the buzz over the Tesla autopilot update, a lot of commentary has appeared comparing this Autopilot with Google’s car effort and other efforts and what I would call a “real” robocar — one that can operate unmanned or with a passenger paying no attention to the road. We’ve seen claims that “Tesla has beaten Google to the punch” and other similar errors. While the Tesla release is a worthwhile step forward, the two should not be confused as all that similar.
 Tesla’s autopilot isn’t even particularly new. Several car makers have had similar products in their labs for several years, and some have released it to the public, at first in a “traffic jam assist” mode, but reportedly in full highway cruise mode outside the USA. The first companies to announce it were Cadillac with the “Super Cruise” and VW’s “Temporary Autopilot” but they delayed